Way back at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Joseph Smith laid the foundations for Mormonism based on what he believed was the best historical theorizing of his day. To that end, he incorporated into his revised history of North America the myth of the Mound Builders and the widespread belief that the first Americans were a lost tribe of Israel. According to the Book of Mormon, which Smith claimed to have translated magically from unseen ancient texts buried in upstate New York, the pure Hebrews were killed off by their fallen brethren who had lapsed into idolatry and were cursed with red skin for their sin, becoming Native Americans (Alma 3:6-7; 4 Nephi 1:10; 2 Nephi 5, etc.).
Since the foundation of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, Mormon archaeologists and historians have tried mightily to harmonize the prehistory of the United States as given in the Book of Mormon with the facts on the ground, which have stubbornly refused to admit a continent-wide Hebraic civilization in the early centuries CE.
A Mormon group called the Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism held a conference last month in which it explored evidence for the Mormon account of history, and lo and behold, guess what they held up as the first piece of hard evidence that Mormonism is right about the fate of the Lost Tribes? That’s right, the work of none other than Scott Wolter, which they seemingly did not actually understand:
Ancient Hebrew writing has now been authenticated seven times in North America. A stone recovered in 1889 during an official Smithsonian Institution archaeological dig in a Hopewell burial mound in Tennessee has just a few weeks ago been verified to have an ancient Hebrew inscription carved into its surface. Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) and new 3D digital microscopy examination was performed by American Petrographic Services owner and forensic geologist Scott Wolter at the McClung Museum on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Their findings and conclusions are revolutionary. This is the first, but not the only, artifact ever recovered and scientifically verified to have ancient Hebrew writing anywhere in the Americas, and it came from a Hopewell mound dating to Book of Mormon time frames! You will learn much more about these evidences for Hebrew written language at the conference!
FIRM was so excited about the America Unearthed episode that they updated their website to promote Wolter and his work, trumpeting how his “scientific findings are now validating the claims of the Book of Mormon.”
As you will of course recall from the episode of America Unearthed covering this topic (S02E10, “Lost Relics of the Bible”), Wolter did not verify that the Hebrew writing dated to the early centuries CE. Instead, his “scientific” findings (which are themselves disputable) were that the stone’s inscription had been carved sometime before the 1960s but after roughly the first centuries CE. This does not verify that the Paleo-Hebrew writing is pre-Columbian since the proposed dates also include the 1889 recovery date, when most archaeologists believe that artifact was hoaxed and planted. Nevertheless, the Mormon conference organizers took the Wolter’s employment of the trappings of science—“3D digital microscopy”!—and mistook it for science itself.
Other evidence presented at the conference is equally laughable. An attempt to sail from Saudi Arabia to America is taken for “verification” that such a voyage actually happened; claims going back to the sixteenth century that Native Americans had Hebraic practices are trotted out again as proof that they are really Lost Tribes.
But let’s take a moment to pause and consider this: Mormons are embracing America Unearthed as evidence that the Book of Mormon is real! How they will square this with Scott Wolter’s claims that Jesus was the reigning King of Judea and that he founded a dynasty protected by the Templars I cannot fathom. But I guess in the a la carte world of fringe history, you don’t have to deal with it, you just need to take the parts you agree with.
But here’s the kicker: Mormons now have their own knockoff America Unearthed called Nephite Explorer that launched in 2013 and features freelance Mormon journalist Ryan Fisher digging through American history to look for “evidence” that Mormon accounts of prehistory are true. It currently airs only on independent Salt Lake City TV station KJZZ, so I have never seen the show, which was featured alongside America Unearthed at the conference.
Like its H2 cable counterpart, Nephite Explorer has a conspiracy theory undergirding its claims, one directly related to the United States. Scott Wolter imagines America as the culmination of a Freemason-Templar-goddess worship cult’s plans to create the most powerful country ever, and the Mormons assert that a conspiracy run by God helped to establish America as God’s promised land, converting America’s leaders like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln to the belief that America was the new Israel and the fulfillment of prophecy. They even use the same evidence Templar-Freemason conspiracy theorists use, down to Washington’s first inaugural address and its references to the Promised Land.
Also like Scott Wolter, Nephite Explorer finds the collapse of Cahokia to be essential to understanding how Old World peoples are tied to American history. But while Wolter sees Cahokia as abandoned on Templar orders, Nephite Explorer asserts that it fell to the wars between the red-skinned and white-skinned peoples at the end of the Lost Tribes’ reign.
Here’s a fun fact: Nephite Explorer has a close relationship with Mormon diffusionist Wayne May. Wayne May is the owner of Ancient American magazine, which published Scott Wolter’s first reports “verifying” the Bat Creek Stone several years ago. Additionally, according to statements made by former Ancient American editor Frank Joseph, he, Wayne May, and Scott Wolter know one another better than Wolter sometimes pretends. Wolter often claims ignorance of the contents of Ancient American magazine, in which he publishes articles, and he has pointedly avoided discussing Frank Joseph, who has a controversial history with Neo-Nazis and child sex abuse but is nevertheless the originator of many claims Wolter investigates, particularly those related to Burrows Cave. Yet Joseph says that the three men drove home together from a 2011 Michigan conference on ancient American mysteries and had a great time discussing the presentations with one another. (May lives in Wisconsin and Wolter in Minnesota.) Obviously, this doesn’t prove anything but carpooling, but it goes to show that Wolter and Mormon archaeology have had a mutually supportive relationship for years despite their obvious differences.
This brings us to Scott Wolter’s latest radio appearance on something called The Rundown Live, a Milwaukee-based alternative and conspiracy-oriented talk radio program. He appeared on March 28, but the program was only uploaded to YouTube last night. In the show, Wolter bristles at being called a “pseudoscientist” by some unnamed “people.” As is now standard, Wolter declares his rogue’s gallery of anomalous artifacts “absolutely 100% genuine,” which he knows that even his own geological work cannot confirm. For example, even accepting his dating for the Newport Tower, it does not logically demonstrate that the Cistercians and Templars were in league with each other or had discovered America; that is an interpretation based on a faulty reading of history. Nevertheless, Wolter again reiterates his belief that mainstream historians are wedded to an invisible paradigm that forbids acknowledgement of Templar influence in America.
The most interesting thing to come out of the interview is that Wolter says that the archaeologists at Cahokia refused to allow the program to film there because they disliked his show. “Screw it!” Wolter said.
The people that are criticizing me, they’re doing what they can do. They’re going after me and they’re going after, um, my credentials, you know anything and everything except talking about the artifact(s) and the factual evidence. […] So why are we having these arguments, people attacking me, criticizing me? Let’s stop already, OK?
This is an interesting criticism, which I imagine must be at least partially directed at me since I wrote a blog post more than a year ago about Wolter’s oft-repeated claim to have been awarded an honorary master’s degree, a post Wolter himself confirmed to be accurate. The trouble is that Wolter personalizes his investigations to the point where this “findings” become inseparable from Wolter himself, for his elaborate conspiracy theory is not “science” in any real sense; it does not follow logically, for example, that if the Kensington Rune Stone really does date to 1362 it is necessarily the work of elderly Templar survivors claiming the Mississippi watershed for the Holy Bloodline of Jesus. The rock just doesn’t say that, and no amount of geology is going to “prove” this to be the case because it is a product of Scott Wolter’s unique reading of (fringe) history. As such, to criticize this claim is, in his mind, to criticize Wolter himself because he doesn’t differentiate between what others perceive to be fact vs. interpretation and only personal vendettas and conspiracies can explain how anyone could disagree with him.
Once again, he returns to the “Manifest Destiny” well, oblivious to the idea that his own version of it—a more peaceable version whereby the white invaders simply merge through sexual conquest with the Natives, who then become successors to the Old World white invaders—is scarcely different than the Lost Tribes mythologies he condemns. He remains steadfastly ignorant that lost white race theories were official U.S. government policy in the Manifest Destiny years (see the 1830 State of the Union address of Andrew Jackson and the subsequent debate over the Indian Removal Act), not that Manifest Destiny was ever more than a slogan. In fact, the only early American official to have steadfastly opposed diffusionism due to a complete lack of evidence was Thomas Jefferson, and Wolter considers him part of the conspiracy to suppress the truth!
But, importantly, when I pointed to Wolter as an exemplar of conspiracy culture a few weeks ago, I didn’t know that he has decided to fully embrace conspiracy concepts that emerged in the late twentieth century from right wing extremism, including the New World Order, which he was more hesitant about on America Unearthed. Now, he’s explicit:
Do I think there’s a New World Order? Yes! Do I think there are secret societies that get together like the Bilderberg Group and make key decisions that dictate how things are going to go generally around the world? Of course!
BINGO! I’ve now checked off every single one of Michael Barkun’s markers of conspiracy culture except for UFOs. We have the Bilderberg Group! He’s a full-on conspiracy theorist! Wolter went on to say that the New World Order and secret societies like the Bilderberg Group are “holding us back” from a more glorious future—Millenarianism again!
But seriously: Holy crap! Scott Wolter is an out-and-out conspiracy theorist just two lizard-people away from being David Icke.
Wolter believes that the Bilderberg Group and the New World Order are afraid that accepting Wolter’s findings will cause the collapse of Christianity through the revelation of Mary Magdalene and Christ’s children. The Smithsonian, acting on behalf of the NWO and the Church, is purposely suppressing the truth. They don’t want real history to be known because “it’s going to expose them for the liars that they are,” he said, and undermine the power of the Catholic Church. (This in a country that discriminated against Catholics for two centuries.) He believes that the Native Americans are also hiding the truth about the Templar-Holy Bloodline involvement in American history (“You think they don’t know?”), though their motivations for this are less clear. It obviously is not financial.
So why are secret societies and the government suppressing the truth about Old World visits to America before Columbus?
The Templars are the problem. They’re the big problem. It all goes back to the Bloodline Families that goes back to the truth about Jesus and Mary Magdalene and their ancestor all the way back to Akhenaten and Nefertiti. […] You have to understand, the Catholic Church is a very powerful entity […] They don’t want the truth about what they’ve done over time to come out.
Uh-huh. Jesus was related to Akhenaten? So, the Gospel genealogies are lies since neither mentions Akhenaten? If so, how does Wolter know the “truth” about Jesus? I can’t listen to this anymore. He just burrows further and further down the rabbit hole, laying one crazy claim on top of the next. Come back when you have some sort of proof that Jesus really had children. Try that for starters.
Wolter goes on to say that, contrary to claims made for him, America Unearthed is intended to “bring to light” subjects not previously discussed and to present the truth about the past to the audience. He says he is “proud” of this work but that he is not “proving” things. He says that he tells the writers over and over not to use the word “proof” or “prove” because his cases aren’t conclusive. I’m not sure how this squares with his assertion minutes earlier that the objects he evaluated on the show are “100% genuine.”
Wolter then reverses course and again asserts that he has discovered the “truth” (but not proof?) and that people like me (whom he calls “clowns”) simply refuse to believe the revelation, like the Jews who denied Christ, because it is too shocking and too wonderful a gospel to contemplate, “so foreign to your mentality,” as he said. “After a while, can’t you just get with the program?” he asked, wondering why skeptics refuse to agree with him, though he concedes that he can understand their mindset and that believers should forgive them for they know not what they do. But, just like Christ, Wolter knows that he, too, is suffering to bring revelation to the masses and has his cross to bear: “They can call me all the names they want. I don’t give a shit, man. I played, I played football in college and minor leagues for four years.” He then asserts that opponents have physically and verbally assaulted him, driven mad by his quiet proclamation of truth. Verily, he speaks as does Jesus in John 18:23.
Oh, right: Persecution claims are another key indicator of conspiracy culture.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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