One day while viewing various Internet videos involving the Book of Mormon, I happened across a video of a joint presentation by Dr. John Clark, Matthew Roper, and Wade Ardern from the 2005 FAIR Conference on Archaeology and the Book of Mormon. As part of the presentation, Matthew Roper displayed slides indicating various Book of Mormon items as "unknowable" because they were "logically beyond proof or disproof" as it is not known "what they are in the real world." Chief among those listed by Mr. Roper was the "famous but mysterious metal ziff," with Mr. Roper citing from the nineteenth-century anti-Mormon, Origen Bacheler. Bacheler made the following challenge in his publication, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally:
And what kind of metal is ziff! Come, Joseph, on with thy goggles, and translate thy translation, and tell us what ziff means. (Bacheler 1838, 14)
I had just completed a few years of research that resulted in the publication of the book Geology of the Book of Mormon, and I had been surprised by just how little real scientific research had been done with regards to geological references in the Book of Mormon. I wondered if Mr. Roper's comments on ziff were really based on the fact that a large amount of research had not proved fruitful, or whether no one had really tried very hard, similar to the lack of research I had seen on geology in the Book of Mormon. Since I have not been too involved with any Book of Mormon research groups, and because I had not dealt with metals and ore bodies in Geology of the Book of Mormon, ziff piqued my natural curiosity and seemed like an excellent intellectual challenge.
As a self-funded, self-publishing, free-lance scientist when it comes to the Book of Mormon research, I am able to operate without academic deadlines, budgets, or publishers who want a marketable product, and therefore I am able to wander in my research wherever it takes me. This particular research on ziff proved to be both engaging and expansive, as it took me into areas of interest that I had not suspected. As the reader will notice, I am not a Book of Mormon apologist; I am actually a bit tired of the research that is primarily directed at responding to critics of the Book of Mormon as it seems to miss many topics, essentially conceding the research prioritization to individuals who really don't care what actual ancient information exists in the Book of Mormon. On the other hand, much of the so-called research attacking the Book of Mormon is less than objective.
Having read the Book of Mormon many times, I have found that it supports itself sufficiently well and independently without my feeble attempts at analysis. My research interest is not to prove that Joseph Smith was or was not a prophet, nor to engage historic and present theocratic leaders of the LDS Church in all their various prior and current positions and statements. My approach is simply to objectively inquire and then provide whatever scientific information I can and lay it out for anyone to follow. I have no pre-conceived objective; most of the time I find the research path itself much more interesting than the final conclusions (if there end up being any).
I think my relationship to Book of Mormon research was best expressed by the character of Professor Henry Jones and his quest for the Holy Grail in the 1989 movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
Professor Henry Jones: Elsa never really believed in the grail. She thought she'd found a prize.
Indy: What did you find, Dad?
Professor Henry Jones: Me? ... Illumination!
As this book is not written to be wildly entertaining or a bestseller, I'm hoping that the reader will be patient through the tedious sections and ultimately receive at least a small kernel of illumination about the Book of Mormon. So, put on thy goggles that I have provided and join me in a wandering scientific journey into the Book of Mormon, starting with ziff.