B. H. Roberts's Testimony

Timeline of B. H. Roberts' Book of Mormon studies and testimony

August 1921

B. H. Roberts[BIO] receives a set of questions[1] about the Book of Mormon from "Mr. Couch."[BIO][2]

August 1921–February 1922

B. H. Roberts conducts a lengthy study of the Book of Mormon to respond to Couch's questions.[3]

December 1921–January 1922

B. H. Roberts meets with the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve regarding the Book of Mormon "problems" and is disappointed with their responses.[4]

March 1922

B. H. Roberts submits a report to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve on the Book of Mormon and clarifies that the report does "not represent any conclusions of mine" but states his "faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon."[5]

1926

B. H. Roberts affirms his testimony of the Book of Mormon, despite unresolved difficulties.[6]

October 1927

B. H. Roberts submits "Parallels" to Church leaders, which is a comparison of the Book of Mormon and the View of the Hebrews.[7]

1928

B. H. Roberts refers to the Book of Mormon as "an ancient volume of scripture" and Nephites an "ancient American race."[8]

April 1930

B. H. Roberts refers to the Book of Mormon as "the word of the Lord from the Nephite race."[9]

December 1932

B. H. Roberts affirms his faith in Joseph Smith, "accept[ing] him as a Prophet of the Most High God."[10]

August 7, 1933

Wesley P. Lloyd[BIO] meets with B. H. Roberts. According to Lloyd, Roberts felt the Book of Mormon "needs more bolstering" and that the Doctrine and Covenants was the strongest evidence for the divinity of Joseph Smith.[11]

September 27, 1933

B. H. Roberts dies of complications related to diabetes.[12]

Did B. H. Roberts lose his testimony later in life?

No, probably not. Up until his deathbed, B. H. Roberts[BIO] consistently affirmed his belief in the gospel, the Church, and the Book of Mormon.[13]

Why do people think that he may have lost his testimony?

Probably because in the 1920s, Roberts drafted three different reports about problems with the Book of Mormon.[14] These reports engaged Book of Mormon truth claims critically and candidly[15] and were written for internal use within the Church.[16] If taken out of context,[17] they could appear to be the work of an “anti-Mormon.”[18]

A journal entry from Wesley P. Lloyd[BIO] also indicates that towards the end of Roberts's life Roberts felt the Book of Mormon was difficult to defend and the Doctrine & Covenants was stronger evidence for the restored gospel.[19]

Some have interpreted this as evidence that Roberts may have lost his testimony of the Book of Mormon.[20]

So what was the context in which he wrote these manuscripts?

Roberts was a passionate defender of the faith.[21] Apostle James Talmage asked him to respond to a list of questions about the Book of Mormon from a man named “Mr. Couch"[BIO] from Washington, D.C.[22] This assignment led Roberts into a deep investigation to find answers and explore possible weaknesses in the Book of Mormon.[23] He presented his work to the First Presidency and the Twelve.[24]

What did the Prophet and Quorum of the Twelve think about B. H. Roberts's research?

They seemed willing to listen, but they were not as receptive as Roberts would have liked.[25] After Roberts presented his findings, President Heber J. Grant[BIO] and the Quorum of the Twelve reportedly bore their testimonies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and were uninterested in intellectual discussion.[26]

What reasons are there to believe that he didn’t lose his testimony after doing all this research on the Book of Mormon?

There are two primary reasons. First, Roberts wrote a cover letter to his research that explained that he was playing devil’s advocate[27] and he actually believed in the Book of Mormon despite these problems.[28] Second, until his death in 1933, Roberts repeatedly stated and wrote that he believed in the historicity of the Book of Mormon,[29] the divine mission of Joseph Smith,[30] and in the Church.[31]

Did he ever specifically say he no longer believed in the Book of Mormon or the Church?

No. Roberts wrote thousands of pages of text about the Restored Gospel[32] and gave many talks and speeches[33] in the years following his Book of Mormon research, all in support of the faith. There is no record of him ever indicating that his research was anything more than an intellectual exercise to help defend the faith.

But is it possible that Roberts developed a more “nuanced” understanding of the Book of Mormon where he believed it was inspired, but it wasn’t literally a historical record?

Possibly, but probably not. Even after he wrote the manuscript critical of the Book of Mormon, Roberts repeatedly referred to the book as being of ancient origin.[34]

What did his research conclude?

That there were problems with the Book of Mormon related to linguistics,[35] Indigenous peoples migrations,[36] metallurgy,[37] horses,[38] etc. when examined in the context of the available data and scientific consensus of the time (circa 1920).[39] He also noted issues related to the similarities between Ethan Smith’s[BIO] View of the Hebrews and the Book of Mormon.[40]

Do these serious problems still exist today?

Not so much. Given almost a century of scholarship, Roberts's arguments now appear to be relatively naive. Book of Mormon scholars and apologists have largely accounted for the issues that Roberts noted with varying degrees of evidence.[41] It's likely that Roberts would have been satisfied with these explanations.

What has changed in the last 100 years that gives us better answers than Roberts had?

Primarily new archaeological discoveries and more research from secular scholars into language and texts, as outlined in the chart.

Couch’s Book of Mormon Concerns[42]

(condensed and paraphrased)

Scholarly Advancements since 1928

Linguistic studies divide the Native American languages into five distinct linguistic groups. Lehi and his descendants could not have been responsible for this division of languages in such a short time.

Latter-day Saint scholars (and the Church) have rejected the premise that Lehi is the primary ancestor of the Native Americans.[43] There have also been studies on the relationship between Old World and New World languages.[44]

Horses are present in the Book of Mormon, yet Historical and paleontological data shows that the horse was not in America at the time of the Book of Mormon.

Researchers haven’t found strong evidence of horses in pre-Columbian Americas yet, though the most recent DNA analysis indicates that horses were in North American about 3000 BC.[45]

There have been other advances in this area including some archaeological evidence[46] and translation explanations.[47]

Nephi claimed to have a bow made of steel, but steel did not exist in 600 BC.

Biblical archaeologists have discovered steel in the Middle East as far back as the eleventh century BC.[48]

The scimiter is a curved sword that did not exist until the middle ages, long after the time of the Book of Mormon.

Many non-Latter-day Saint scholars (Fretz, Abernathy, Krijgsman, etc.) have identified curved swords as pre-exilic Israel and Egypt.[49]

Silk is present in the Book of Mormon, but silk was not present in American in pre-Colombian times.

Bishop Diego de Landa and Francesco Saverio Clavigero both refer to pre-Colombian "silk" in Mesoamerica as identified by Spanish Conquistadors.[50]

Some People Say . . .

"I think B. H. Roberts was a great defender of the faith and a General Authority. I don't think he lost his testimony, did he?"

— overheard in Sunday School

The Facts

  • B. H. Roberts wrote a series of documents exposing problems with the Book of Mormon.

  • He shared these documents with the First Presidency, explaining that he was acting as a devil's advocate and that these issues needed to be addressed.

  • The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve met with Roberts but had little interest in engaging with these issues.

  • B. H. Roberts continued faithful service for the remainder of his life, testifying of the truth of the Church and the Book of Mormon.

  • Towards the end of his life, he told a friend that he thought the Doctrine and Covenants was stronger evidence than the Book of Mormon for the Church because there were unresolved issues with the Book of Mormon.

Our Take

Hearing of someone losing a testimony can be disheartening, even more so when it is a prominent church member. And since B. H. Roberts was such an intellectual force in the Church, hearing that he may have lost his testimony can leave people wondering if they can be intellectually honest and still be faithful.

The good news is that all available evidence points to Roberts maintaining a strong, devoted testimony to the truthfulness of the gospel. He openly acknowledged that the Book of Mormon had problems that could not yet be solved by scholarship at the time, but he continued to have faith that it was an ancient record and inspired by God. Today, nearly all of the difficulties that Roberts cataloged have been addressed by modern scholarship.

It’s important to study things out, both intellectually and spiritually, with a humble heart. Faithful members—even Church leaders—can have sincere intellectual questions and not receive answers to all of them. It's okay to wrestle with issues, but it's important to also have patience and trust that Heavenly Father reveals truth and peace through the spirit and know that not every intellectual difficulty will be solved in our lifetime.

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Footnotes
  • BIOB. H. Roberts

    Brigham Henry Roberts (1857-1933) was born in Warrington, Lancashire, England, to Benjamin Roberts and Ann Everington. Roberts emigrated from England in 1866 and crossed the plains to Salt Lake City. He was baptized in 1867 and settled in Bountiful. Roberts served a mission to Iowa and Nebraska, then was transferred to Tennessee in 1880. He served as president of the Eastern States Mission from 1922 to 1927 and as one of the seven Presidents of the Seventy from 1888 until his death. Roberts was an early and prolific writer on Mormonism, best known for A Comprehensive History of the Church and Studies of the Book of Mormon.

  • BIOMr. Couch

    Likely James Fitton Couch (1888-1951), a chemist in Washington, D.C.

  • BIOWesley Lloyd

    Wesley P. Lloyd (1904-1977) was born in Ogden, Utah. He received a PhD from the University of Chicago in 1937 and served as a professor and administrator at Brigham Young University from 1939 to 1969.

  • BIOHeber J. Grant

    Heber J. Grant (1856-1945) served as the seventh president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, to Jedediah Grant (a counselor in the First Presidency) and Rachel Ivins Grant (a long-term Relief Society President in Salt Lake City). Grant worked as a clerk for Zion's bank and started an insurance company and a Utah Sugar Company. He became an apostle in 1882 and established the Church's first mission in Japan. He became Church president in 1918 and served for 27 years.

  • BIOEthan Smith

    Ethan Smith (1762–1849) was a New England clergyman who was born in Belchertown, Massachusetts. He became a Congregationalist clergyman and authored a variety of works, including View of the Hebrews, a book that critics have highlighted as a possible source of the Book of Mormon. There is no family relation between Ethan Smith and the Joseph Smith family.

  • Mr. Couch asked the following questions:

    1. The "Mormon" tradition states that the American Indians were the descendants of the Lamanites. The time allowed from the first landing of Lehi and his followers in America to the present is about 2,700 years. Philologic studies have divided the Indian languages into five distinct linguistic stocks which show very little relationship. It does not appear that this diversity in the nature and grammatical constructions of Indian tongues could obtain if the Indians were the descendants of a people who possessed as highly developed a language as the ancient Hebrew, but indicates that the division of the Indians into separate stocks occurred long before their language was developed beyond the most primitive kind of articulations. Again the time allowed from the landing of Lehi is much too short to account for the observed diversity.
    2. The Book of Mormon states that when the followers of Lehi reached North America they found, among other animals, the horse here. Historical and paeleontological data shows that the horse was not in America at that time, nor did it arrive for 20 centuries afterward.
    3. Nephi is stated to have had a bow of steel which he broke shortly after he had left Jerusalem, some 600 years B.C. There is no record that I know of which allows the Jews the knowledge of steel at such a period.
    4. Reference is frequently made in the Book of Mormon to "swords and cimiters." The use of the word scimeter does not occur in other literature before the rise of the Mohammedan power and apparently that peculiar weapon was not developed until long after the Christian era. It does not, therefore appear likely that the Nephites or Lamanites possessed either the weapon or the term.
    5. Reference is also made to the possession by the Nephites of an abundance of silk. As silk was not known in America at that time the question arises, where did they obtain the silk?
  • "Mr. Couch" submitted the questions through his friend and colleague, William E. Riter, on August 22, 1921. His questions challenged the historicity of the Book of Mormon based on the understanding of linguistics and archaeology in the 1920s.

  • In December 1921, Roberts informed William E. Riter that he had "not yet reached conclusions that serve as a basis upon which to formulate my answer."

    In February, Roberts acknowledged that Couch's questions "present a problem, but not one that may be unsolvable."

  • On December 29, 1921, Roberts reported to Church leadership that the "problems" of the Book of Mormon were "more serious than I had thought for; and the more I investigated the more difficult I found the formulation of an answer to Mr. Couch's inquiries to be."

    Upon meeting with Church leaders on January 9 regarding his studies, Roberts confided to President Heber J. Grant:

    Permit me to say, then, but in the utmost good will and profound respect for everybody elses opinion, that I was very greatly disappointed over the net results of the discussion.
  • In the preface of his report, Roberts felt it was important to clarify his intentions and position on the matter:

    I have written it from the viewpoint of an open mind, investigating the facts of the Book of Mormon origin and authorship. Let me say once for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. This report he<r>eewith submitted is what it purports to be, namely a "study of Book of Mormon origins", for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well as that which has been produced against it, and that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it. . . . It is not necessary for me to suggest that maintenance of the truth of the Book of Mormon is absolutely essential to the integrity of the whole Mormon movement, for it is inconceivable that the Book of Mormon should be untrue in its origin or character and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints be a true Church.
  • In B. H. Roberts's 1926 second edition of New Witnesses for God, he observed:

    And now a final word as to these objections. Are all the objections to the Book of Mormon satisfactorily answered? Are all difficulties which they represent removed? Frankly, no; they are not. Every one must feel that. But, on the other hand, do these objections that are not entirely and satisfactorily answered constitute an insuperable difficulty in the way of a rational faith in the Book of Mormon? My answer is, they do not. Nor does incompleteness of evidence on any particular point necessarily mean error as to the general result of the evidence. But a little more time, a little more research, a little more certain knowledge, which such research will bring forth, will undoubtedly result in the ascertainment of facts that will supply the data necessary for a complete and satisfactory solution of all the difficulties which objectors now emphasize, and on which they claim a verdict against the Book of Mormon.
  • In a letter to Church leaders on "Parallels," Roberts said:

    Such a question as that may possible arise some day, and if it does, it would be greatly to the advantage of our future Defenders of the Faith, if they had in hand a thorough digest of the subject matter. I submit it to you and if you are sufficiently interested you may be submit it to others of your Council. Let me say also, that the Parallel that I send to you is not one fourth part of what can be presented in this form, and the unpresented part is quite as stricking [sic] as this that I submit.
  • In The Truth, The Way, and the Life, Roberts refers to the Book of Mormon history this way:

    Moroni was sent to the Prophet to reveal the existence of an ancient volume of scripture known as the Book of Mormon, a book which gives an account of the hand-dealings of God with the people whom he brought to the continents of America from what we now call the “Old World.”

    He also referred to the Nephites as historical with the following description:

    (b) The Nephite colony. It was about the time of the destruction of the Jaredites that a small colony was led from Jerusalem, under divine guidance, to the western continents, where they too developed into a great people and into national life. This colony was made up of Israelites of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, and later augmented by a second small colony made up of Jews. They continued in occupancy of the land—chiefly in North America—until about 400A.D. Then came their destruction because of their rebellion and wickedness against God. They lost touch with faith and righteousness until their civilization was overthrown, and they survived only in the tribal relations such as existed at the advent of the Europeans.
  • In the April 1930 General Conference, Roberts said of the Book of Mormon:

    We are told in that precious volume of scripture that when the floods receded from this land it became a very choice land unto the Lord, a land that, through this word of the Lord from the Nephite race, receives its most precious descriptive name.
  • Roberts noted his belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet and said:

    Frankly I confess myself to be of the first class: one who believes in him, accepts him as a Prophet of the Most High God, inspired as no other man has been inspired to establish God's truth in the world; one who believes in him without reservation. To me he was a mighty spirit which made him one of God's "great" and "noble," and "good" intelligences in his own right, by the very nature of him; he was perhaps second only to the Christ, the Son of God, in that spirit estate preceding earth-life. To this spirit, great, and mighty, and strong, God gave in addition, authority and inspiration which made him of a quick and mighty understanding.
  • In his August 7, 1933, journal entry (which was likely produced several years after the fact), Lloyd reproduced his lengthy conversation with B. H. Roberts about his views on the Book of Mormon and experiences with Church leadership on his studies over Book of Mormon "problems." Lloyd reported:

    Instead of regarding it as the strongest evidence we have of Church Divinity, [Roberts] regards [the Book of Mormon] as the one which needs the more bolstering. His greatest claim for the divinity of the Prophet Joseph lies in the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • Truman Madsen, a B. H. Roberts biographer, explained that although Roberts occasionally drank in his earlier years, his reported drowsy, bloodshot appearance shortly before his death was due to his severe diabetic symptoms.

  • Even as Roberts continued to critically engage the Book of Mormon, he maintained his belief in the Book of Mormon's "ancient" quality, its divine inspiration, and Joseph Smith's divine commission. He considered his faith in the Book of Mormon "unshakable."

  • The three reports included Book of Mormon Difficulties (focused on discrepancies between the Book of Mormon and the known archaeological record), A Book of Mormon Study (which argued that Joseph Smith could have used "creative imagination" in producing the text), and A Parallel (which highlights similarities between the Book of Mormon and Ethan Smith's early nineteenth-century text, View of the Hebrews).

  • Of the questions surrounding the Book of Mormon historicity, Roberts spoke of looking for answers:

    To stand up and say to the modern world we place our revealed truth against all the evidence and deductions of your science, and await the vindication of new evidence yet to be discovered, is heroic, but is it, and will it be convincing? Most humbly, but also most anxiously, I await the further development of knowledge, that will make it possible for us to give a reasonable answer to those who question us concerning the matters herein discussed.
  • Roberts presented his findings to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve and made no efforts to publish them. According to Roberts, he produced at least one of the reports "for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well as that which has been produced against it, and that which may be produced against it."

  • When Roberts presented his research to the First Presidency in 1922, he included a cover letter explaining:

    Let me say once for all, so as to avoid what might otherwise call for repeated explanation, that what is herein set forth does not represent any conclusions of mine. This report he<r>eewith submitted is what it purports to be, namely a "study of Book of Mormon origins", for the information of those who ought to know everything about it pro et con, as well as that which has been produced against it, and that which may be produced against it. I am taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it.
  • For instance, B. H. Roberts once observed that it was reasonable to argue that Joseph Smith at least had the capability to produce the Book of Mormon using imagination and View of the Hebrews:

    In the light of this evidence, there can be no doubt as to the possession of a vividly strong, creative imagination by Joseph Smith, the Prophet, An imagination, it could with reason be urged, which, given the suggestions that are to be found in the "common knowledge" of accepted American Antiquities of the times, supplimented by such a work as Ethan Smith's "View of the Hebrews", would make it possible for him to create a book such as the Book of Mormon is.
  • In 1933, Wesley P. Lloyd met with Roberts and later recorded in his journal what Roberts said about the Book of Mormon:

    Instead of regarding [the Book of Mormon] as the strongest evidence we have of Church Divinity, he regards it as the one which needs the more bolstering. His greatest claim for the divinity of the Prophet Joseph lies in the Doctrine and Covenants.
  • Historian Brigham D. Madsen, for instance, believed that it was possible that Roberts may not have retained his belief in the Book of Mormon. Madsen wrote, "Whether or not Roberts retained his belief in the Book of Mormon may never be determined."

  • Joseph Hyde, a contemporary, called Roberts a "war-horse of the Church." President J. Reuben Clark considered him to be, along with President James E. Talmage, one of the "great Crusaders" who was "armored in truth" and "loved truth for truth's sake."

    Clark celebrated that Roberts "did not depend upon the approval of the world for their inspiration nor for their courage.'"

    Biographer Truman G. Madsen believed that he wanted to "prepare present and future generations for anticipated criticisms."

  • Mr. Couch asked the following questions:

    1. The "Mormon" tradition states that the American Indians were the descendants of the Lamanites. The time allowed from the first landing of Lehi and his followers in America to the present is about 2,700 years. Philologic studies have divided the Indian languages into five distinct linguistic stocks which show very little relationship. It does not appear that this diversity in the nature and grammatical constructions of Indian tongues could obtain if the Indians were the descendants of a people who possessed as highly developed a language as the ancient Hebrew, but indicates that the division of the Indians into separate stocks occurred long before their language was developed beyond the most primitive kind of articulations. Again the time allowed from the landing of Lehi is much too short to account for the observed diversity.
    2. The Book of Mormon states that when the followers of Lehi reached North America they found, among other animals, the horse here. Historical and paeleontological data shows that the horse was not in America at that time, nor did it arrive for 20 centuries afterward.
    3. Nephi is stated to have had a bow of steel which he broke shortly after he had left Jerusalem, some 600 years B.C. There is no record that I know of which allows the Jews the knowledge of steel at such a period.
    4. Reference is frequently made in the Book of Mormon to "swords and cimiters." The use of the word scimeter does not occur in other literature before the rise of the Mohammedan power and apparently that peculiar weapon was not developed until long after the Christian era. It does not, therefore appear likely that the Nephites or Lamanites possessed either the weapon or the term.
    5. Reference is also made to the possession by the Nephites of an abundance of silk. As silk was not known in America at that time the question arises, where did they obtain the silk?
  • Roberts expressed anxiety over what might occur should these questions go unresolved:

    To stand up and say to the modern world we place our revealed truth against all the evidence and deductions of your science, and await the vindication of new evidence yet to be discovered, is heroic; but is it, and will it be convincing? Most humbly, but also most anxiously, I await the further development of knowledge that will make it possible for us to give a reasonable answer to those who question us concerning the matters herein discussed.
  • In January 1922, after he presented his work, Roberts wrote President Heber J. Grant:

    All the facts and arguments that were proposed, outside of the matter of linguistics, I had already made the utmost use of in the third volume of my New Witness for God. . . . While on the difficulties of linguistics nothing was said that could result to our advantage at all or stand the analysis of enlightened criticism . . . . I cannot be other than painfully conscious of the fact that our means of defense, should we be vigorously attacked along the lines of Mr. Couch's questions, are very inadequate.
  • Roberts expressed his disappointment in how the meeting with the Brethren went in a letter to President Heber J. Grant:

    There was so much said that was utterly irrelevant, and so little said, if anything at all, that was helpful in the matters at issue that I came away from the conference quite disappointed.
  • Of the meeting, Apostle James E. Talmage observed:

    I know the Book of Mormon to be a true record; and many of the 'difficulties,' or objections as opposing critics would urge, are after all but negative in their nature. The Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his colony found horses upon this continent when they arrived; and therefore, horses were here at that time.

    In a later conversation with Wesley P. Lloyd, Roberts expressed frustration at the lack of the Church leaders' willingness to engage the issues. Lloyd wrote:

    At his request Pres. Grant called a meeting of the Twelve Apostles and Bro. Roberts presented the matter, told them frankly that he was stumped and ask for their aid in the explanation. In answer, they 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 had not been shaken by the question. Pres. Ivins, the man most likely to be able to answer a question on that subject was unable to provide the solution. No answer was available. Bro. Roberts could not criticize them for not being able to answer it or to assist him, but said that in a Church which claimed continuous revelation, a crisis had arisen where revelation was necessary. After the meeting, he wrote Pres. Grant expressing his disappointment at the failure and especially at the failure of Pres. Ivins to contribute to the problem.
  • In one of his reports, Roberts said it "would be greatly to the advantage of our future Defenders of the Faith" to have quality research on Book of Mormon criticisms.

    He assured the Church leadership that he was "taking the position that our faith is not only unshaken but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, and therefore we can look without fear upon all that can be said against it."

  • Even at the end of his life, Roberts held publicly that the Book of Mormon was "ancient" and that it represented the "hand-dealings" of Book of Mormon peoples.

  • In 1928, long after he published his manuscripts, Roberts maintained that the Book of Mormon "discloses the hand-dealings of God with these ancient people through the prophets and teachers God sent unto them, and also gives the account of the visits of the risen Christ to them. . . . In this record God has brought forth a new witness to the truth of the things whereof the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament and the New also bear witness."

  • In December 1932, Roberts published his testimony of Joseph Smith:

    Frankly I confess myself to be of the first class: one who believes in him, accepts him as a Prophet of the Most High God, inspired as no other man has been inspired to establish God's truth in the world; one who believes in him without reservation.
  • In April 1933, shortly before passing, Roberts described the Book of Mormon as a "precious volume of scripture" and a "new American witness for God." He spoke of Jesus physically come to America following his resurrection and cited the Book of Mormon as prophetic assurance that "the Church has not yet reached the climax" of its existence.

  • B. H. Roberts' works include the following: 1. New Witnesses for God (3 volumes) 2. The Truth, the Way, and the Life 3. Studies of the Book of Mormon 4. The Gospel: An Exposition of its First Principles 5. The Life of John Taylor, Third President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 6. Outlines of Ecclesiastical History. 7. Succession in the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 8. The Missouri Persecutions 9. The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo 10. The Seventy's Course in Theology (5 volumes) 11. The Mormon Battalion: Its History and Achievements 12. The "Falling Away"; or, The World's Loss of the Christian Religion and Church.

  • For instance, in April 1928, he celebrated the truths preserved from the Book of Mormon, offering this prayer in Conference:

    We thank thee for the great prophet of the New Dispensation, the servant in thy house, Joseph Smith, the Seer of the last days. And also, Father, we thank thee for that flood of knowledge that has come into the world, the testimonies from the Nephite scriptures, as well as those which have come from the Jewish scriptures.

    In April 1929, Roberts considered the Doctrine and Covenants to be "unquestioned as to its authorship" with "evidence of inspiration in it equal to that of the Book of Mormon." Near the end of his life, in April 1933, he declared in General Conference that the Book of Mormon was "one of the most valuable books that has ever been preserved, even as holy scripture."

  • For example, in Roberts 1928 book The Truth, The Way, and the Life he refers to the Book of Mormon as "an ancient volume of scripture" and Nephites an "ancient American race."

    And in the April 1930 General Conference, Roberts observed that the Book of Mormon came to readers through "the Nephite race" and that America became "a very choice land unto the Lord."

  • In January 1922, Roberts looked at this question:

    Can we successfully maintain the Book of Mormon's . . . written language stage of culture against the deductions of our late American writers upon these themes?
  • Roberts further questioned the Book of Mormon's claims regarding the "comparatively recent advent of man in America."

  • Roberts supposed that ancient America was a "stone age culture, not an iron and steel culture."

  • In January 1922, Apostle James E. Talmage reflected in his journal on his meetings with B. H. Roberts regarding horses:

    I know the Book of Mormon to be a true record; and many of the 'difficulties,' or objections as opposing critics would urge, are after all but negative in their nature. The Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his colony found horses upon this continent when they arrived; and therefore, horses were here at that time.
  • The contemporary scientific consensus held that indigenous Americans were not descended from Jews; knew nothing of smelting, written language, or ironworks; and embraced no Abrahamic religions.

    In 1910, Richard Rathbun, the secretary at the National Museum, wrote that the "caractors" from the Anthon manuscript of the Book of Mormon "are neither Egyptian nor Chaldaic, Assyrian nor Arabic; and they have not been found on any American monument or manuscript."

  • When sending a list of the parallels, Roberts wrote:

    The Parallel that I send to you is not one fourth part of what can be presented in this form, and the unpresented part is quite as striking as this that I submit.
  • The questions from Mr. Couch were included in a letter from W. E. Riter to James E. Talmage.

  • In the 2013 edition of the Book of Mormon, the introduction states that Lamanites are "among the ancestors" of modern Native Americans. This was changed from "they are the principle ancestors" to provide "clarity and greater accuracy," according to the Church History Library. The introduction is not considered scripture.

    Many Latter-day Saint scholars also believe that there is evidence of other indigenous groups who were incorporated into the Nephite and the Lamanite populations.

  • One non-LDS scholar, Mary LeCron Foster, presented two papers on Old World language in the Americas to the Association of American Geographers and the annual meeting of the Language Origins Society.

    Brian Stubbs, a Latter-day Saint linguistics scholar of Semitic and Egyptian languages and Uto-Aztecan languages, has done multiple studies showing a relationship between Old and New World languages.

  • In December 2021, Smithsonian Magazine reported on DNA research published in Nature that indicated that woolly mammoths, wild horses, and steppe bison were roaming North America as recently as 3,000 BC which is in the mid-Holocene period.

    Previous data indicated that horses were present much earlier. For example, in 2009 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published research that indicated that the youngest "macrofossil ages" for horses found in northwestern North America (north of the Cordilleran and Laurentide ice sheets) were from 12,480 years ago (with a margin of error of 80 years).

  • In an essay, Anthony P. Andrews and Fernando Robles Castellanos wrote that "Since the horse also survived into post-Pleistocene times in the Old World, the possibility of its survival into Archaic times in the American tropics may also need to be considered."

    Philip Ireland, reporting on the discovery of a skeleton of a horse found in Carlsbad, California, wrote that "Radiocarbon dating of 340 years, plus or minus 40 years, puts the death of the horse sometime between 1625 and 1705."

    He added that, if this discovery was corroborated by future tests, it "may be remarkable since North American horses were thought to have been extinct by the late Pleistocene era more than 10,000 years ago."

  • Some Latter-day Saint scholars have theorized that the use of "horse" is an example of an Old World term being used to describe a New World animal. For example, the Aztec word for deer was macatl, and so they called Spanish horses macatl.

    In linguistics, this phenomenon is referred to as a "loan-shift".

    Many Latter-day Saint scholars believe the term "horse" in the text refers to the New World animal of the tapir or some other large mammal.

  • "Steel" was present in the Old World before the time of Nephi. A 1977 Scientific American article stated, "It seems evident that by the beginning of the tenth century BC blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron."

    One pick found in the eleventh century BC (in a fortress at Har Adir, Upper Galilee) was made of "real steel," produced by carbonizing, quenching, and tempering. According to one group of researchers, "The readings averaged 38 on the Rockwell "C" scale of hardness. This is a reading characteristic of a modern hardened steel."

  • For example, the term the King James Version of the Bible translates a word in 1 Samuel 17:45 as "shield." Abernathy and Krijgsman note that the Hebrew term (כידון, kydwn) means a curved sword or scimitar, not a shield.

    Non-Latter-day Saint scholars like M. J. Fretz, Beau Abernathy, Robert Drews, and Marten Krijgsman have also published on "scimitars" or "sickle swords" in pre-exilic Israel or Egypt.

  • In his 1566 Yucatan Before and After the Conquest, Bishop Diego de Landa called the fiber (kapok) of the Ceibra tree "silk."

    Francesco Saverio Clavigero, in the 1807 The History of Mexico, made reference to the Spanish Conquistadors calling native Mexican fibers as "silk":

    This might be, and actually has been, made into webs as soft and delicate, and perhaps more so, than silk; but it is toilesome to spin, on account of the smallness of the threads, and the profit does not require the labour, the web not being lasting. Some use it for pillows and mattresses, which have the singular property of swelling enormously when exposed to the sun.

    Non-Latter-day Saint scholar Matthew Wallrath also referred to fibers native to Tehuantepec, Mexico as "wild silk."