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Radio Free Mormon: 15: New Evidence for The Book Of Mormon

Today Radio Free Mormon throws us a curveball and shows us things are not so easy to brush off.  That while there are many contradiction in Mormonism that work against its claims, there are also other sides to that coin.  Namely paradoxes that call us to take the another look at Mormonism including today’s look into the Book of Mormon.  Just as we thought we might be heading down a wrong road, he points us to a road sign that suggests it may actually be a right road.  The road sign? ………  Numerology in the Book of Mormon.  No not your weird cousins type of numerology where one deciphers the numbers in your life as if reading a palm.  Rather what numbers meant to the Israelites and Jews and the Middle Eastern cultures and why strangely, those systems show up in great explainable yet statistically significant ways.




57 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 15: New Evidence for The Book Of Mormon”

  1. Absolutely fascinating! Thank you! You expressed my exact beliefs in The Book of Mormon but in a much more scholarly and eloquent way. Another great podcast!

  2. I usually appreciate your view on things but this episode was just despicable. You make wild assumptions without any justification (i.e., apologetics) about whether JS had been able to pick up on these numerological aspects from the bible. Given all the other things he picked out of the bible text that many others had missed, I would say there is just as strong a case that this is just continued proof of his plagiarisms rather than it being evidence that the BoM is of ancient origin. I was so disgusted with your intellectual dishonesty in this episode I had to choke down my bile just to finish it. I had really come to expect more from you. This was very disappointing. If it continues in the future, I’ll just skip the episodes you produce. I had come to expect more from you than to fall into stereotypical apologetic traps.

    1. This is Bill Reel. Don’t you think thats harsh. I know Radio Free Mormon personally. there is nothing intellectually dishonest about his approach in this episode. He calls it like he sees it and often that involves criticism of Mormonism but also at times faithful perspectives he still sees as having value. Why not just disagree. Why practice the very ad-hominem you find despicable in “apologetics”? In the end if you wish to skip his episodes, then that is on you but then your likely to miss, what I think is some of the best podcast episodes being produced at the moment. Allow people to hold various perspectives. It is not a trait of the dishonest, rather it is a trait of the developed.

    2. I appreciate your comments, Franken.

      Is it “possible” Joseph Smith could have consciously or subconsciously come up with these types of things from the Bible? I suppose it is possible, though there is no indication of which I am aware that Joseph was aware of the use of ancient Hebrew numerology in the Bible–and by this, I specifically mean the crafting of real world information into a different format that provides a numerologically significant component.

      Such as the recasting of the number of tribes of Israel at 12 again even after they had increased to 13.

      Or the recasting of Jesus’s genealogy in Matthew in order to make three sets of fourteen.

      Most people without degrees in Biblical studies are not aware of these things even today.

      So I have to ask myself, what are the odds that Joseph Smith was savant enough to pick up on this, and THEN to use it successfully in his translation of the Book of Mormon while dictating it out of the bottom of a hat?

      Now, I could just brush it aside with a wave of my hand claiming it is coincidence or something Joseph did subconsciously.

      But I would not be intellectually honest in doing so. At least not for me.

      Allowing for the possibility is one thing, but to me at least, the possibility of something like this occurring in this instance seems extremely unlikely.

      I do hope you will continue to listen, though, and to tell your friends about RFM. I appreciate above all the exchange of ideas, no matter what the subject, or what position you may take.


      1. First to Bill, I was a little harsh and should have tempered my comment more. I do disagree with calling my comment ad hominem, something I’m happy to discuss further. RFM may be a great person and I’m not attacking him. I don’t know him other than through the podcast. In my field of study, the way the material was presented would be categorized as intellectually dishonest. I probably should have said it was a little biased or one-sided as this is not academics and it’s just people trying to work things out on their own since the church refuses to provide any real help or clarification on any issues of substance.

        To RFM, I’m sorry that what I said was done as harshly as it came out. Regardless of what any of us might think of joseph smith as a prophet of god or not, it is hard to dispute that he was extremely bright and had a very keen mind. This is why I find it unconvincing about the arguments you put forward. For those of us without theology degrees (and even for some that do) we wouldn’t pick up on a lot of the things JS did, even if he did misinterpret (willfully?) some of them. It’s well known that he plagiarised the KJV bible that he had, along with parts of the apocrypha. What is still waiting to be looked at more closely is how he used other portions of the bible to construct narratives and pieces of the BoM. Reading through some of the books of the prophets in the OT, there are more than a couple of chapters I’ve come across that resemble quite closely parts of the BoM (I haven’t seen anyone write/talk about these yet either). That he was well enough versed in the bible to do this kind of thing, I have little doubt.

        Much like the god of the gaps, the evidence for the BoM being of ancient origins keeps dwindling further and further as we continue to learn more. Particularly as more of the BoM is examined through textual criticism, I’m doubtful that even the numerological points you raise will remain standing. And again, I apologize for being hypercritical.

        1. No problema, Franken.

          I appreciate the rough and tumble world of open and frank discussion.

          You may be right that the “numerological points” I have raised will not remain standing. But we will never know unless I put them out there for people to take a crack at.

          And I have to tell you, I am pretty excited that Hope-for-Things found another excellent example of this sort of thing in the BOM right off the bat!

          You take care!


      2. The numbers 7 and 14 occur in a natural phenomenon of which all ancient peoples were aware: the lunar cycle. Smith was also aware of this. The period of time from new moon to half moon is 7 days, from half moon to full moon is 7 days, from full moon to half moon is 7 days and from half moon to new moon is 7 days. The entire lunar cycle is 28 days, or two 14 day cycles- new moon to full moon and full moon to new moon. Months were based upon the lunar cycle, as was the 7-day week and the 14 day fortnight. The average human menstrual cycle is 28 days.

        Today the lunar cycle is less important because of artificial lighting. Previously, one had to be aware of the phases of the moon to know the amount of ambient light to expect at night.

        I must agree with previous commentary that Smith was well read in the Bible. His use of numbers common in the Bible is not surprising, nor that significant.

  3. Great episode. I was hoping to hear more about why you believe Joseph Smith & co. could not have recognized Old Testament numerology themselves, and subsequently inserted the relevant numerology into the Book of Mormon. I’m with you that that seems unlikely, but not entirely convinced that it is less likely than divine guidance. I’d love to hear your thoughts, either in a comment here or in a future episode.

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Danny.

      The problem I have with your argument is that ANYTHING is less likely than divine guidance. ;^)

      In other words, even if there were a host of archeological evidence in the Americas (which there isn’t) supporting the Book of Mormon narrative, it would still be more likely that this was a coincidence than that divine guidance was at play.

      As long as I take the position that “divine guidance” is the least likely option, then no BOM connection with antiquity, no matter how solid or how otherwise inexplicable, can be used as evidence in favor of the book’s legitimacy.

      It is a way of stacking the deck against the BOM, though I do not think you are intentionally using it in this manner.

      What I try to do is to approach the BOM using the same sorts of tools that scholars of other ancient texts (including the Bible) use in determining the antiquity and/or authenticity of those texts.

      If those same tools used on the Book of Mormon yield results that, in any other field, would confirm the antiquity of a text, it makes sense to me to draw similar conclusions about it for the Book of Mormon.

      In other words, I try to lay to one side the miraculous stories about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and focus solely on the text itself, for purposes of studies such as this.

      Here, I think the results are surprisingly in favor of the BOM having at least some aspects that connect well with texts written in the ancient world.

      I will never be able to say that Joseph Smith COULDN’T have done it on his own, but if he could, his Muse is becoming so powerful as to be virtually indistinguishable from divine inspiration.

      At least that is how I see it in this instance.


  4. RFM,

    You are smart and well reasoned most of the time, but I believe you’re overthinking the numerology evidence in a way that is similar to how many people find evidence for the signs of the times in the book of Revelation.

    Humans aren’t very good at generating random numbers and events. However, humans are extremely good at finding parallels and connections between things that are just a coincidence. I look at one of the smartest humans in history as an example of this. Isaac Newton was obsessed with finding end of the world predictions through the texts of the bible, and by using his well developed brain he was able to come up with some pretty creative explanations for things in the text that certainly have no relationship to reality.

    To some extent, I think you are doing this with your numerology examples. You’re biasing the observations that you see as relevant, and ignoring all the observations that don’t match your thesis. This is human nature and how our minds work, so if we desire to be rational we must push against this tendency and force ourselves out of this natural bias that we are preconditioned for.

    One example, the Matthew text where the author purposefully arranges the genealogy of Jesus to have a divine pattern affirmed by the numbers. Remembering that first Matthew was written, not by an eye witness, but by someone living two generations removed from Jesus. Matthew also had Mark and likely other sayings writings available to him to draw on. Matthew also was the first to create a birth narrative, and Matthew was putting Jesus into a role as a new Moses with many parallels. Also Matthew was a Jew and writing to a Jewish audience. Now remembering all these things, it makes some sense that Matthew would sacralize the genealogy of Jesus, to show that Jesus is favored by God, and that God had an inspired purpose for Jesus.

    Your similar examples in the BoM from Alma really have no overarching purpose if you think about it. They aren’t sacralizing a person as important as Jesus. What’s the overarching meaning behind creating these numbers in groups of 7, whether years or lists of names or groups of people. What’s the meaning, whats the purpose? Why would the author intentionally leave out Samites to create a list of ites that fit the number of 7. What’s the meaning? The author of Matthew had a purpose, and it was the central purpose of his gospel, it was all about Jesus and the sacred nature of Jesus. What’s Nephi or Alma or any other BoM author’s purpose in these number games?

    Lastly, my views about scripture don’t allow me to think of the BoM in the same way as you’ve described in your thesis. You’ve said that you believe the BoM has 19th century elements, and I completely agree. It was dictated and written in the 19th century and the evidence for this is very strong. I see all scripture as a product of the time and place of its authors. I can’t think of any examples of scripture where the author is somehow able to transcend their time and culture. If there is evidence of an author in the past writing things that somehow were not a product of their time and place, I would like to see it.

    None of this means that the BoM can’t also be a work that individuals find inspirational. I believe many humans are inspired to do amazing things that are beautiful, artistic, revolutionary, and at times ineffable. I think this is part of the amazing human endeavor, but I don’t believe that any humans have a supernatural power to see the future or to channel the mind of ancient civilizations. I see no compelling evidence to suggest to me that Joseph Smith or any other human that has ever lived has this kind of supernatural ability. So, the BoM can be an inspired text for me, but it isn’t ancient, its a product of its author and the time that it was written.

    One more thing, your assumption is that Joseph wasn’t familiar with this concept of numbers in the Bible. Why assume that? Or, perhaps since he was intentionally imitating the Bible, perhaps he subconsciously created similar structures. Remember, humans aren’t good at generating random numbers, humans repeat patterns without even realizing they are doing it.

    1. Hi, Hope for Things!

      I really appreciate your well-crafted comment to this episode.

      I want to say that I agree with you for the most part, and any place at which we may disagree probably has more to do with conclusions than with methodology.

      Methodologically speaking, I agree that it is too common for people to go crazy with numerology (and astrology and other symbolic and interpretive ventures) and start seeing things where they don’t exist–or perhaps more fairly, see them where few if anybody else would see them.

      If the BOM presented just a collection of instances where the number seven (or fourteen) was used, and that was all, I would see this as something that is probably just coincidental.

      I tried to deal with this in the precatory comments of the podcast, but maybe didn’t do a good enough job.

      Every group of things or years or people or tribes, etc., will usually have a number associated with it. And by chance, a certain number of those will have numbers that correspond to what ancients believed to be numerologically significant.

      We still today think of seven as a lucky number, though the reason for this is shrouded in antiquity. So a person today who thinks seven is lucky or significant could incorporate that number into a text for purely modern reasons, and then it could be argued later (and incorrectly) that this shows an evidence of antiquity; when really it is a mark of modernity that has kept alive a piece of antiquity.

      But here, the BOM does more than that–the BOM presents us with three instances in which “real world” information is intentionally and purposefully crafted in such a manner as to change the “real world” number into a number with symbolic significance.

      I am unaware of the reverse happening–i.e., “real world” information being intentionally crafted into a number without numerological significance.

      In fact, I am not aware of any other instance in the BOM where any “real world” information is changed to any other number that does not have symbolic significance. Maybe that is because I have not looked hard enough.

      But if that is the case, it must be significant that the only time “real world” information is changed to something else in the BOM; it is “real world” information that does not have a numerological significance being changed to a number that does have numerological significance.

      And it is probably also significant that we find it three times in the BOM; because when we compare this to the much longer Bible, I am aware of only two such instances. (Three if you count the 7-day Creation periods in Genesis.)

      Remember that such cases are by their nature rare, because we must have a narrative that not only contains the “real world” information, but also contains the numerologically re-crafted information.

      If we have just the “real world” information, we can deduct nothing, because no author has changed it to something numerologically significant.

      If we have just the numerologically significant number (and we have many of these in the Bible, as in the BOM), we can deduct little from this because we do not have the “real world” information in the text with which to compare it.

      It is only by having both the “real world” information in the text, together with the numerologically re-crafted number that corresponds to the “real world” information, that we are in a position to conclude whether the author has intentionally reshaped information in order to make it numerologically significant.

      I think the three examples I explore in the BOM make it clear that the author is doing just that–intentionally reshaping “real world” information to make it numerologically significant.

      That author “could” have been Joseph Smith, or one of his contemporaries. I just don’t see that as even remotely likely.

      Hence I see these instances of numerology in the BOM among the best evidences for at least some connection between the text of the BOM and the ancient world.

      Reasonable minds can differ on this subject. I am not out to win any converts. But I have to be honest in saying that I see something more than coincidence here; and something more than fraud; and something more than plagiarism; and something more than subconscious.

      What that something is I may not be able to say with any specificity. But I feel I have rules out pretty much all the “naturalistic” explanations. Which leaves me with the “supernatural.”

      What was it Sherlock Holmes said?

      “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

      I do not believe this issue is quite as black-and-white as our friend Sherlock would suggest.

      I do not consider alternate “naturalistic” theories “impossible.” But I do consider them highly implausible. At least with my current level of knowledge on the subject.

      Thanks again for your wonderful comments!


      1. Thanks RFM for the dialogue, I appreciate it. In quick efforts to find some examples of real world data being intentionally shaped into insignificant numbers, I found some more sevens.

        1 Nephi 7:6 “And it came to pass that as we journeyed in the wilderness, behold Laman and Lemuel, and two of the daughters of Ishmael, and the two sons of Ishmael and their families, did rebel against us; yea, against me, Nephi, and Sam, and their father, Ishmael, and his wife, and his three other daughters.”

        The rebels – 1 Laman, 2 Lemuel, 3 & 4 two daughters of Ishmael, 5 & 6 two sons of Ishmael and 7 is families.

        The family being rebelled against – 1 Nephi, 2 Sam, 3 Ishmael, 4 wife of Ishmael, 5 – 7 three daughters

        I still don’t see this as a compelling evidence, but I have to say that I will continue to keep my eyes open.

        Just a thought, but I wonder if we’d find similar structures in the D&C?

        1. Thanks, Hope for Things!

          That is an intriguing insight! Bravo! I think the only weakness to what you suggest is including “families” as a separate entity in the first list in order to make it tally seven, but really, what you propose is quite fascinating.

          Again we have seven plus seven for a total of fourteen.

          The only other thing I would say is that I think this cannot be used as an example of real world data being shaped into significant numbers. But only because we don’t have a separate account of the event showing that the actual (i.e., real world) information was different from this number.

          That is what we would need to make it fall into the category I find the most compelling evidence.

          But as it is, I have to give you full credit for coming up with this one, which though not in the “most compelling” category from my perspective, is nevertheless another entry under the heading of incidents in the BOM that seem to amount to a total of 14.

          And making it a bit stronger than this is the fact that the text itself separates the 14 into two groups of seven. In other words, it looks very much like the author is doing this intentionally.

          If this were the only such example, I would chalk it up to coincidence. But when it is added to all the other examples, it does appear that an intentional pattern is emerging.

          Thanks again for your eagle eyes!


        2. About D&C, I believe somebody else in a different forum conducted such an analysis and found no such similar structures in the D&C.

          You are welcome to give it a go, though!

        3. Whoa!

          UNLESS you mean by manipulating real world information, you mean the inclusion of the entity marked “families” to count as one unit instead of listing the individual members of those “families” separately.

          This may indeed fall into that category I consider most compelling!

          Once more, BRAVO!!!


  5. Another thorough episode RFM! There is some very interesting information here. I don’t see myself being able to reconcile this with a new faith in the BoM in light of all the counter evidence, but very intriguing nonetheless. Any thoughts about the allegory of the olive trees in Jacob 5? I haven’t seen any great naturalistic explanations for this one either.

    Keep ’em comin!

    1. Thanks, Dan!

      Can I tell you the most brilliant insight I have ever heard of the allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 was just broadcast by Jack Naneek in a recent Mormon Awakenings.

      There, he likened the old olive tree not to Israel, as directed by the allegory itself, but to an individual going through a faith transition–where all the dead accretions and limbs are the old beliefs the person can’t/won’t let go, and which make it so the person bears no new fruit.

      What does the gardener do to make the tree start bearing good fruit again? First the old dead limbs (beliefs) are cut away, and then branches from wild olive trees (beliefs from outside the system) are grafted in.

      When the gardener comes back, the old olive tree is now bearing all sorts of new fruit. It has gone from being a dead thing to a living thing.

      When I heard this, I felt immediately how brilliant it was, and how well this allegory describes the cause of faith-decay and atrophy, and how to overcome it.

      Hoorah for Jack Naneek!


  6. Dear RFM,

    I am a literalist in my daily life, and I cannot tell you how excited I am to find that the scriptures are not to be taken literally; for that solves many problems for me. I also love puzzles, so now I am delighted to reread the BofM (for my umpteenth time) with the eyes of a person looking for the less obvious. Hooray! Looking forward to your next installment. I have loved each post you’ve made under the moniker of RFM. God bless you and yours.

    1. Thank you so much, Gale!

      My experience with the Book of Mormon has been that, as long as my mind is open to seeing new things, the Book of Mormon never fails to disappoint.

      Regardless of how many times I read it, I am always able to learn something new.

      And the very interesting insight from Hope for Things mentioned above is a great example of how there are things sitting right there in the text that manage to escape me, even when I am looking for such examples!

      (Still very excited about that insight, Hope for Things!)

      When I was more TBM, reading the Book of Mormon, and the rest of the scriptures, was a drag, because I never learned anything from them.

      It was only after a little maturing on my part that I finally realized the reason I wasn’t learning anything from the scriptures was because I went into it thinking I already had all the answers.

      When I read the scriptures thinking I already know the answers, I shouldn’t be surprised when all the scriptures have to tell me is the things I already know!


  7. Super impressive once again!!
    You deepen my testimony, and my joy for loving and cherishing the BoM.

    Can’t thank you enough!!

  8. I was suspicious of the possibility that in the Book of Ether, Moroni being the author/abridger of the record, that it would be devoid of the Mormon portions with respect “real world information” numerological patterns. Since Ether represents pre-Hebrew people, so we might anticipate a difference with respect to Lehi’s lineage and history. Well lo and behold….there is very little to no resemblance of 7 or 14 numerological patterns as seen in the plates of Nephi. We have a geneology of Ether to Jared that isn’t a multiple of 7. We have 8 barges, sixteen stones and families that never fit the seven equation. We do get 12 sons and daughters of Jared and occasional three hours of a defined time. However, a far cry from what we see in Mormon’s narratives I could be missing something but it intetesting to note the difference and making the assumption why. Ant thoughts on my assumption?

    1. I think that is very interesting, Dale, and thank you for doing the additional research!

      Trying to be as critical (not cynical) as possible, though, I would expect that if the Book of Ether were abridged by Moroni, it would still be plausible that Moroni would shift the “real world” numbers in the Jaredite record to reflect numerological significance as understood by Moroni.

      But as you say, different cultures have different numbers of significance. Seven is prominent in many ancient cultures, as is twelve.

      But if I am remembering my Iliad correctly, the number 9 was also a number of special significance to the ancient Greeks, as well as 12 (the number of gods on Mt. Olympus).

      It is possible 8 was of significance to the Jaredites, and that doubling it made 16 for the stones. But that would have to be considered conjecture at this point, of course.

      Unless we were able to determine that the ancient culture from which the Jaredites claim to derive also had a penchant for the number 8.

      I have not done that homework, but it might be something you would be interested in looking into. I would be interested in hearing the results.

      Thanks again for taking the time and initiative!


      1. RFM,
        Thanks for your response! However, I may have been misleading in my initial intention based off of your response. That can happen when I write in haste! lol.

        I was basically implying that in Ether there appears to be no numerological pattern intentions or concern by the author as it appears to be the case in the Mormon abridgment. My pointing out the 8 barges and 16 stones, and other statements of numbers usage in Ether, was not to imply any significance or correlation to any culture etc.. My key point was that it appears the author of Ether almost goes out of their way in assuring 7 or multiples of such, or any symbolic numerological for that fact, are not being used and has no concern on using such a methodology . Was this due to the possibility that there is a different author than Mormon at work here? Or, maybe Moroni would care like Mormon on such matters. But, since the source comes from a different culture and time period than the Hebrews, then possibly Moroni attempted to stay more factual to the real world information per the source record and stayed away from the MO used in the Nephite records.

        Just thinking out loud here and hope that more fully clarifies my original thesis on this matter. Also, I’m hopeful that I ascertained your response correctly as you intended. If I didn’t……my apologizes!! Thanks for this interesting podcast and the exploration of these fascinating Book of Mormon attributes!!

        P.S. I know we have had our disagreements, and I’m sure we’ll have more, but I do enjoy these kind of fun discovery and discussions! Keep em coming!!!

    2. Two of the chapters of The Book of Ether include what may be considered a rather odd numerological occurrence or a variation of it. In Ether 10:8, 15 and 32 we have descriptions where particular Jaredite kings reigned 42 years, and then the people would either rise up in rebellion against him or the king himself, would begin a war.

      And of course, 42 is a multiple of 6 and 7.

      In Ether 9:24, it describes Coriantum living to a ripe age of 142.

      These passages seem to imply that there is some significance to the number 42 to the Jaredites that we aren’t privy to.

  9. Dear RFM,

    You have introduced to my mind many preciously unconsidered things concerning the book of Mormon. Now I’m beginning to wonder if the ‘sealed’ portion of the BofM is perhaps the new insights embedded within in our current edition, instead of a literal sealed portion; perhaps like the Nick Cage movie “National Treasures” where the Benjamin Franklin reading glasses had a second set of lenses through which new texts were read. Kinda awesome to think that could be the case with the BofM.
    Thanks for opening the possibility of a riddle or puzzle to be solved.
    Much gratitude,

    1. Yours is an interesting idea, Gale.

      At some point, I hope to do an episode dealing with why it is I came to the conclusion that the hidden books of scripture prophesied to come forth in the last days are hidden in plain sight–lining the stacks of the local library.


      1. What a wild idea. I am looking forward to that podcast to see if “To Kill A Mockingbird” perhaps contains scripture. Hehe!

  10. First off, I agree that there are clear examples of numerology in the Book of Mormon, both in the examples you’ve outlined here and in other places. However, the possibility of JS being the author of said numerology is more probable than you make it out to be. For example, Michae Quinn pointed out impressive examples of numerology in D&C. Somewhat related, he also outlined how JS’s marriage dates are on what were considered astrologically significant dates in the time period. Numerology plays a role in folk magic, and JS’ Jupiter talisman contains an example of it. All of these examples suggest JS, at different points in life, believed in the significance of numbers, and considering his early exposure to folk magic, he was most likely already disposed to numerology at the time he dictated the BOM.

    One of the types of number symbolism employed in the Book of Mormon is the 3 day cycle with a climactic build up to a significant number. The oldest examples of these come from Mesopotamia, I believe, consisted of a similar action being described on subsequent days and then a climax on the final day which was also a significant number (I think the earliest examples climax on the 7th day, and later examples add the possibility of the 3rd day). One example features the main character praying in a temple on 6 subsequent days and having a vision on the 7th day. The earliest examples repeat statements for each day, while later examples summarize the first group of days with a single statement. All biblical and Mesopotamian examples are narrative and based on days, at least as far as I’m aware of. The Book of Mormon examples of this device sometimes fit the with ancient examples, but one example doesn’t. The examples that doesn’t fit tells us more than the examples that do fit, considering the device could have been observed in the Bible. This example is in the boat/storm narrative in 1st Nephi. The text tells us that the storm rages for several days and then gives us the climax statement that “on the fourth day” (or something to that effect), the storm is so strong that Laman and Lemuel let Nephi free and he calms the storm. The climax on the fourth day breaks from all know ancient examples that I’m aware of.

    The Book of Mormon also consistently uses a sequential x, x+1 pattern in 1st Nephi and the beginning of 2nd Nephi. There are numerous examples of this sequence in simple poetic forms in the Bible. The use of the sequence in the Book of Mormon never (? maybe almost never) fits the poetic sequence. The examples in the BOM mostly climax on the number 4 (3 followed by 4). There are a bunch of potential examples throughout 1st Nephi, and as if to drive the point home, the final example in 2nd Nephi where Nephi gives a summary of their history consists of 30 and 40 years (multiples of a number are commonly used for emphasis in number symbolism). The number 4 is highly significant to JS’s astrological sign, Jupiter…

    1. Thanks for your comments, Benjamin! I appreciate the contributions you make to the discussion. You raise a lot of points, but the one I would like to address is this comment:

      “For example, Michae Quinn pointed out impressive examples of numerology in D&C.”

      My knowledge is far from encyclopedic, but I am unfamiliar with any place where Michael Quinn has pointed out any numerology in D&C.

      I am aware of Quinn (or others) pointing out instances of chiasmus in D&C, but not numerology.

      I tried to do a google search but was unable to find anything resembling what you allege.

      I want to start here because, if indeed there is numerology in the D&C, it would appear to weaken the main thesis. (Unless we were to postulate that God herself frames things in numerological terms.)

      I will leave it at that and wait for your reply.

      Again thanks for your comments!


    2. This is what a friend of mine found after a brief scan of the D&C for numerologically significant terms. Specifically after doing a word search for seven and fourteen in the Doctrine and Covenants.

      Fourteen only appears as a specific day in a month.

      Seven only appears as 1) biblical quotes, 2) referring to the 70 or their presidents, and 3) the number of high council members needed to make a quorum (7 is one more than half of 12).

      Looking for obvious lists of things that could be numbered in the text of sections 1-30, I found the following numbers:

      Section Number Things numbered

      3 –7 BoM tribes
      4 –4 qualifications for work
      –10 virtues to remember
      12 –6 (or 4) qualifications for work
      17 –4 (or 5) things the witnesses will be shown
      20 –10 things an apostle does
      –9 things a priest does
      –7-10 things a teacher does
      21 –5 things Joseph will be called
      23 –5 people addressed in the revelation
      26 –5 things they are instructed to do
      29 –7 people present (including Joseph) when this revelation was given
      –more than 10 groups of things that will happen at the second coming
      30 –6 people mentioned in the revelation

      It doesn’t appear, at first glance, that this same numerological care was taken with revelations put into the Doctrine and Covenants.

      If anyone wants to take a crack at the second group of thirty sections of the D&C, I am all ears!

      There appears to be nothing as obvious as the massaging of real numbers to fit 7 the way it appears in the Book of Mormon.

      1. Quinn lays out his argument on page 180 of magic world view (I’ve read this section of the book but it was a while ago, I don’t have a copy anymore, and I’m relying on a partial snippet view in Google books.). There he says that the officers of the priesthood in section 20 and 107 both add up to 180 (funny that it’s on of 180! At least according to google), and he makes the case that this is a significant number. I remember being impressed by the argument, but maybe you have a copy and give us more details.

      2. I ended up purchasing the ebook just to hunt this stuff down. Quinn gives two example of potential numerology in JS’s texts outside of the dictated BOM text, one in the D&C and one in the Book of Mormon introduction. In chapter 6 Quinn suggests that the 1830 Book of Mormon introduction included some numerology. Joseph as the proprietor and author (1), the three witnesses, and the eight witnesses combine to make the biblically significant number, 12. They also link to JS’s ruling planet, Jupiter, which according to one astrological guide has the three numbers 1, 3, and 8 (my earlier suggestion that the number four is important to Jupiter is actually the jupiter’s greek letters which are always written in a combination that looks like a four. I still think it’s possibly related considering the combination so strongly resembles a number 4. Just take a glance at JS’s jupiter talisman).

        I was mistaken about the D&C examples, it’s only in an 1835 revelation (section 107). Quinn demonstrates how two different lists of priesthood members/offices add up to 180, which represents the degrees in a triangle, “one of the most potent geometric forms in magic.” The first is the list of quorum numbers, 12 deacons + 24 teachers + 48 priests + 96 elders = 180 (notice the triangle like augmentation from least to greatest too). The second example is the priesthood leadership offices: 3 men in the first presidency + 12 apostles + 70 seventy + 12 high council in stakes of zion + 12 high council in zion + 1 evangelical minister (JS Sr.) + 70 additional seventy if needed = 180

  11. I have enjoyed your previous episodes immensely and found them well produced. Your episode on Holland’s Wrong Road talk was one of my all time favorites and I have listened to it repeatedly.

    This was a somewhat less interesting episode to me, smacking as it does of a benign form of crusading obsessiveness. Not sure I understand the point of all the numbers. Or worse, I fear that i do.

    Are you saying that the Book of Mormon falsifies “real world” information (which some here call “sacralizing”) and that this falsification is evidence of its truth, or at least its ancient Hebrew, origins?

    Are you claiming there really was a separately recognized and identifiable “Samite tribe” that “Mormon” or “Nephi” intentionally excludes in the interest of making his list match an accepted-as-holy number?

    Were there really eight or five or some other number of “churches in the land of Zarahemla” and yet the author comes up with exactly seven — and that this is not just a smouching off the “seven churches” in the book of Revelation?

    Was the nonexistent and mathematically impossible “Nephite coinage” really composed of, say, eight different coins and yet the “ancient Hebrew” author of the Book of Mormon chose to report only seven?

    And the “seven year food supply” is not just transparently copying of the story of Pharoah’s dream? An “ancient Hebrew” author or “influence” of the Book of Mormon actually just pulled that number out of his robes because of its “sacred” nature?

    Are you saying that these numbers are evidence that the whole book is “sacred history”, not to be taken literally, but altered (read: falsified) in “ancienty” ways, to lend it mystical significance, and that it is very unlikely that Joseph Smith could have done this?

    If this last is what you are arguing, I would very much like to see a statistician come up with a p-value (demonstrating statistical significance instead of simple confirmation bias at work).

    Without a p-value this is all just more “chiasmus” reaching, because the individual examples of 7,14,21 etc. are not very impressive when compared with the biblical source material Joseph was familiar with; and the cumulative weight of all this special pleading is not even close to the cumulative weight of the 19th century NON-Hebrewisms and anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, and I doubt most biblical scholars would find it otherwise.

    At least that is what it seems to me. Of course I could be totally wrong.

  12. If the numerology leads up to significant geometry and musical ratio comparisons then that will strengthen this. Because we now have quite excellent evidence that is what the ancients did because there was a real ancient canon of number that was significant and meaningful. I think it ought to be checked into.

  13. By dismissing gematria, you are eliminating the Book of Mormon from contention. We know the Jews and Greeks BOTH genuinely used gematria using words as numbers and numbers as words. Kieren Barry “The Greek Qbalah” is a very important text in this regard. And Leonora Leet “The Secret Doctrine of the Kabbalah” and “The Universal Kabbalah” definitely show the Jews USED gematria. If Joseph Smith did NOT use gematria, then he didn’t use an ancient system.

    1. Hi, Professor Shirts!

      So good to have you comment on my humble podcast!

      I agree with you that the subject of gematria would be an interesting one to pursue in examining the Book of Mormon. But inasmuch as gematria is dependent on knowing the language of the Ur-text, and also actually having said Ur-text in our possession to examine, I am not sure how we could go about trying to prove or disprove your hypothesis with regards to the BOM.

      Because with the BOM, we do not know the Ur-text language, nor do we have a copy of it to examine.

      In other words, if all we had of the New Testament were the English translation, and no knowledge of Greek or the actual manuscripts, it would be a hard thing to identify gematria in the New Testament.

      Do you have any ideas along these lines?

      Thanks so much for your participation and comments!


  14. While I enjoyed this episode, I also struggled with the way in which the possibility that JS could have incorporated numerology into the BofM either intentionally or unintentionally was entirely dismissed. Why do apologists, TBMs, and so many others simply take it as a point of fact that JS could not have known and understood things like numerology and chiasmus? Maybe we should include Sidney Rigdon, Oliver Cowderey, and Solomon Spaulding in the list of those we are so willing to quickly dismiss as being totally ignorant of these things. I am just saying that there is a possibility that we are underestimating these individuals.

    1. Hi, Greg.

      I agree that it is always “possible” that Joseph Smith or any of his contemporaries “could” have incorporated such numerology intentionally into the BOM text.

      I tried to make that clear in the podcast, but maybe I was unsuccessful in doing so.

      But at this point, with my current state of knowledge, such a possibility seems to me extremely unlikely.

      But I can never eliminate the possibility of something like what you suggest.

      Hope this makes my position clearer.

      Thanks for your comments!


  15. I haven’t read the comments through completely, but I also read Quinn’s book.

    When I was on my Mission, I tracted into a group of people where were converted 7th Day Adventists, but who were ex-occultists. And yeh,…they were into it.

    One day while we were just talking, one of them asked if I wanted a book. I was hesitant but agreed–he gave me a copy of a book called “The Goetia, the Lesser Key of Solomon”. I had never seen anything like that before in my life. It was a witch-craft book, about the gradation of spirits, their symbols and all kinds of other things.

    Fast forward 35 years. I read Quinn’s book, and was ASTONISHED to see the parchments in that book JS and his brother preserved as family treasures. I was ASTONISHED to see symbols and things similar to what I saw in the witch-craft book given me all those years earlier.

    Quinn makes it clear there were significant dates when JS did things, and those dates coincided with the power days of Jupiter, and the astrological calendar of the Zodiac.

    JS was HEAVILY HEAVILY Steeped in magic…VERY VERY much so. He was called a necromancer on more than one time, and was, according to Quinn, possibly one of those who tried to dig up Alvin’s body and get a piece of his hair or something from the corpse to get the plates!

    What I am saying here is this: the material on numerology that exists in esoteric writings which JS CLEARLY WAS INVOLVED IN, is filled with numerology.

    I follow occam’s razor on this one–numerology is woven HEAVILY into magic texts–HEAVILY. JS had texts of those types, preserved and kept them as family treasures, practiced treasure digging which incorporated incantations and sacrifices showing a devout nature, and through that means would have been aware of and conversant in numerology.

    I don’t think he got it from God. I think he got it from witchcraft.

    After all, he used the same “seer stone” to translate the Book of Mormon (translate?) as he did for seeking treasures. Never found any treasure…did it just not work?

    Its witchcraft…

      1. This one is a lively topic RFM. You hit a good one here. I am loving your pod-casts. I REALLy am enjoying them. Please keep um coming….

  16. I’m a bit behind on my podcast listening so this comment is coming in late. I appreciated the information at the beginning about the Sermon on the Mount and other information in the BoM before the Nephites should have had it. However, I without a database of the mention of every number in the BoM, I can decide from a random listing of 7 references of the mention of 7 numbers that this is possible proof of Hebrew numerology. I would need to see how many times other numbers appear (explicit and latent) to decide that the number 7 is significantly higher or more pronounced. I would also want to know when numbers are used significantly (as in the 7 creation days) or just peripherally (as the 7 sons of Mosiah). I think it’s sometimes stretching to say that anything that amounts to 7 is a reference to their idea of perfection. I hope this makes sense and is not necessary a criticism. I just want to be fair about when we put information out there in the same way we’re asking leaders of the church to be fair when they provide justification for some doctrine or idea.

    Learning about the 4+7 meaning was an amazing aha moment for me. Especially that the stars were considered actual windows which makes Malachi’s “windows of heaven” so much more meaningful.

    Thanks –

  17. Super fun. I love stuff like this. At the same time, I have a different take on the meaning.

    One of my hobbies is writing novels. Novels are forms of stories and stories are based around a structure called the three act play. All stories (and related items such as music, movies) are based on the three act play – across cultures, languages, and time (as far as can be told at least). A new novelist will sit down and write a book doing zero research and having zero understanding of story structure and will end up with a three act play structure – every single time.

    There is something inherent to the three act play for humanity that can’t be disputed. I see the number seven as being the same in terms of numerology. Whether either one is innate and related to divine meaning or whether that is related to brain function or whether it is subconsciously learned, I have no idea. But it isn’t really proof of anything other than that it exists.

  18. I posted a comment on a ‘numerological’ occurence in the Book of Ether, as a reply to a comment from Dale that he posted on 27 June.

    It apparently was rejected. It was pertinent and informative and took a bit of effort to put together.

    So why would you reject such a thing? It certainly wasn’t offensive, or off the mark.

  19. I couldn’t make it through all the comments so forgive me if this was already mentioned but it’s thing like this and word usage that I always thought Joseph meant by saying the BOM was the most correct book on earth. I’m excited to hear about this!

  20. Well, if Joseph Smith did know about numerology, it might explain why he says he had his first vision at 14…and maybe why he married young women who were 14! 😉

  21. Dear RFM,

    Wow! I recently started listening to your podcasts and I so appreciate you helping to open my mind! You have made so many excellent points on your program.

    Just when I think I know what you’re going to say, you throw me for a loop!

    Thank you for always seeing different aspects and insights during each episode. You are not one-sided in your thoughts or presentation. You approach every subject with mindfulness and thoughtfulness.

    Now, I really thought you would try to denounce the BOM of it’s validity, after listening to your previous podcasts. After listening to this episode, I’m confused, intrigued, but confused nonetheless.

    Do you think the church is true? Or just the BOM?

    I have to tell you, I too, had a sure witness during my Patriarchal Blessing, that led me to know the church had to be true. It was undeniable. Yet, the lies, or partial truths the church has told; that I discovered after many faithful years in the church, have led me to a dark place. Is the church true or not? After listening to this episode, I’m even more confused. I come from pioneer stock. So having this battle in my mind of going back and forth thinking ok, it must be true to, I’m not sure if it is true, is depressing, to say the least. Am I being deceived by Satan? I never thought I would falter in my testimony. If anything, I thought it was my “spiritual gift,” to know without a doubt the church was true.

    On a happier note, I’m just thrilled I’ve found you! I love the insight you bring to my mind. Not only that, but your sense of humor, intelligence, and magnificent voice, make the listening experience that much more enjoyable.

    God bless you RFM.


  22. RFM, have your thoughts on this being a something in favor of divine origins in the Book of Mormon changed over the years? This episode does not seem congruous with what little I have heard you say more recently.

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