Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ralph Olsen on Mormon Events: Malay Hypothesis and the Lost Tribes of Israel

As mentioned in my previous installment, The Jewish and Malay Connection: Lost Tribes of Israel, pejuangbangsa31 and mistisfiles are not the only ones propagating that Malays are descended from Keturah or the lost tribes of Israel, or both.

If you google for Malay origin (or asal usul Melayu in Malay), you will get many hits pointing to this direction.  In most of these sites, one most quoted authority comes to the fore.  His name is Ralph Olsen.

Most of these sites are not worth wasting your time, though.  I confess of spending no more than a few minutes for the purpose.  But one site, amnaj.wordpress.com, writes pretty well. (1)  He also relies a lot on Ralph Olsen. 

Now, who is Ralph Olsen?  As he himself says it, he is a retired chemistry professor at Montana State University.  Being a chemistry professor was what he used to do for a living.  But what is he?  He is a Mormon.

We of course have nothing against Mormon, or any Christian for that matter.  But we should at least try to understand what Ralph Olsen tries to prove. 

Now, the Book of Mormon (BofM) is centered around a “promised land.”  Hitherto this so-called promised land has been identified with the continent of Americas, either north, central, or south.  Various hypotheses have been put forward to match the exact location of this promised land—all in Americas.  None, however, is satisfactory, since all are faced with problems with regard to their geography, culture, animals, plants and people.

Based on his research, Olsen conjectures that the most likely place would be the Malay Peninsula.  Hence, the “Malay Hypothesis.”  If his hypothesis can be proven right, Olsen says, then the Book of Mormon is considered authentic.  By proving the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, then Christianity is proven right, and that Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, as the Christians believe.  This is essentially what Olsen strives to do in his 300 page thesis. (2)

His 300 page thesis is probably not worth spending your time, but if you need to know the gist of the matter, his article, as appeared in the Sunstone magazine, would be indispensable. (3)

The gist of the matter is this.  According to the Book of Mormon, about 4,500 or 5,000 years ago, the tribe known as Jaredite, who lived during the period of Nimrod, had emigrated from their homeland somewhere in the Tigris and Euphrates.  They went to the promised land.  Around 600 BC, there was another migration by the Lehite tribe, purportedly to the same promised land.  This promised land has been identified as Americas, as most Mormons believe.

But the descriptions given in the Book of Mormon do not match the supposed promised land, assuming it is somewhere in the continent of America.  All hypotheses given, as Olsen points out, are not convincing, which is why he sets out to develop an entirely novel theory.   The Malay Peninsula provides a better answer, because this location matches perfectly with the geographical, cultural, animals, plants and names of the places, so Olsen says.  Besides, it is more conceivable that both of these tribes travelled to a land only 4,000 miles away, to the Malay Peninsula, as opposed to 16,000 miles away, to Americas, he argues. 

I am not going to waste the space here by delving into the details of what Olsen says.  Read his article as provided below if you are interested.  Then you can judge for yourself whether you find Olsen’s theory is convincing or not.  Being a native of this Peninsula, however, I know that his theory is just a conjecture.  The most glaring would be his attempt to associate the names of the places. 

For instance, he says that Tanah Merah (a small town in my home state, Kelantan) is Zarahemla in BofM; Baharu (which must have been Kota Bharu, the capital of Kelantan, the same North Eastern State of the Peninsula) is Bountiful; and Kuantan (the capital of Pahang, the Eastern State of the Peninsula) is Morianton.

Well, I know for certain that all these three towns are relatively recent.  They did not even exist during the Malacca Empire, which flourished 600 years ago.  What more during the Biblical times which were many times older than the Malacca Empire.  Most other names he mentions are also relatively recent, in existence only around 100 years or so.

But the greater problem rests with the Book of Mormon itself. 

In case you are interested, this is how the Book of Mormon came into the scene.  About 200 years ago, there was this angel named Moroni who appeared to a teenager of seventeen years old named Joseph Smith, and handed him golden plates containing the account of the prophets in the promised land.  The place where this angel Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith was at a hill in the Wayne County, modern day New York, the USA.  The young Joseph Smith then translated the account in these golden plates, written in unknown characters called the “reformed Egyptian” by Smith, into English.  Having finished the translation, both the angel Moroni and the golden plates had mysteriously disappeared.

It is in this Book of Mormon that the story of the Judeo-Christian migrations, as noted above, appears.  That these migrations were considered Judeo-Christian is rather curious, since the last migration predated Christianity by at least 600 years. 

And what about Mormon itself?  What is it, or who is he?

It seems that he was the last of the Biblical prophets who had migrated to the promised land.  He appeared sometime in the early fourth century AD, about 1,700 years ago.  By that time, the Biblical people in the promised land, supposed to be in Americas, were already at the brink of their extinction, due to wars and utter disregard to the God injunctions in the Bible.  Mormon himself used to lead the army of the Nephites against the Lamanites. 

Nephites were the descendants of Nephi, one of Lehi’s sons, while Lamanites were the descendants of Laman, the oldest son of Lehi.  The story of enmity between Nephi and his oldest brother Laman, who was joined by his other siblings, sounds pretty much like the story of the Prophet Joseph with his brothers (see the Story of Joseph)

Before the Prophet Mormon died, he managed to relate all the Biblical accounts from the prophets in this promised land to his son Moroni.  Moroni compiled them in the golden plates and bound them together.  He buried the bounded plates somewhere before he himself died.  Slightly more than 1,400 years later, Moroni appeared as an angel to the young Joseph Smith and handed out the golden plates, asking the latter to translate it into the language spoken by Smith, English. 

At that time in that place, there was some kind of religious revival among the Christians.  It turned out that Joseph Smith himself had managed to gain some adherents, but they were considered heretic by the contemporary Christians at that times.  Hence, they were driven out of New York until they finally resided in the Salt Lake City, Utah, where they managed to establish a thriving Mormon community.   To the Mormons, Joseph Smith was a prophet.

In the recent times, this branch of Christianity is made famous by the Danny and Marie Osmond show, which was popular in the 1970’s.  This show, however, was about singing, not about the religion of Mormon.  Thus, one would be forgiven for not knowing its history.

As this branch is not quite accepted by the mainstream Christianity, the adherents of Mormon try very hard to establish the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.   Since BofM contains historical account with geographical, cultural, animals, plants and people, the people of Mormon believe that if they can prove the place of this promised land, then the veracity and authenticity of BofM would be maintained.

Since all hypotheses have been less than convincing, Olsen therefore strives to come up with a new theory, the “Malay Hypothesis,” as we have mentioned earlier.  In the concluding remarks of his article, he says:

The Malay Hypothesis has not been sanctioned by the Church.  As Brigham Young [their Church leader who had succeeded Joseph Smith and founded the Mormon community in the Salt Lake City] states, “We are to judge opinions of leaders about geography or other matter for ourselves.”  As an old chemist meddling in hallowed ground, I have undoubtedly made mistakes.  But I’ve done my best.  I hope and pray that others will help in determining its validity.  If true, the potential spiritual benefits to brothers and sisters now and in the eternities to come are immense.”

As you can see from the above, even Olsen himself finds it difficult to believe in the veracity of his theory.  If Moroni had buried his golden plates in the promised land, and this promised land was to be the Malay Peninsula, how did the plates end up somewhere in New York, the USA?  And why Moroni gave those plates to Joseph Smith, instead of Ali, Muhammad, or some Malays?  Perhaps Moroni knew that a Malay cannot be trusted.  He would always go for short cut in making money.  He would melt the golden plates for cash, rather than translate the Biblical accounts to save the human souls.

Cynicism aside, the question that amuses me is this: if Ralph Olsen himself admits that he may have made mistakes, and that he only offers “tentative guess,” as he himself puts it in the foreword of his 300 page thesis, why are the Malays, who are supposed to be Muslims, embraced the hypothesis wholeheartedly.  For Malays to even consider the veracity of Olsen’s Malay Hypothesis, they have to believe in the Book of Mormon in the first place.  If they don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, how can they even entertain the promised land theory in it, and link it with the lost tribes of Israel.  If they believe in it, they must believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet.  If they believe that Smith is a prophet, what does it say about their faith as Muslims.

Perhaps Nakoula has a point when he says that the Muslims are innocent, in the sense of being naïve, as my previous piece Innocence of Muslims illustrates.


(1)   Those who are curious may go to: http://amnaj.wordpress.com/tag/asal-usul-orang-melayu/

(2) Ralph Olsen’s 300 page thesis may be downloaded  here:

(3)    Ralph Olsen’s article as appeared in the Sunstone magazine is available here:


  1. Kambing, Lembu dan AyamNovember 28, 2012 at 12:25 AM

    Ni kena tanya Mitt Romney macam mana, betul ke ada link Melayu dengan kitab mormon

    1. Jangan dia ingat Tanah Melayu tu near Florida dah le

  2. answering your question in the 2nd last para (why are the Malays, who are supposed to be Muslims, embraced the hypothesis wholeheartedly), maybe that malay is actually a moron.

    we can call them Moron Malay (owing the name to Moroni guy/angel in your article) for their believe.

    he.. he..

    p/s my comment suppose to be a joke only, even though it might not sound as such. can i make such a comment in future?

    1. Of course I would love to have comments, and your future comments would be most appreciated.

      And in fact I did think of playing with word Moron/Moroni, why such name is used in the first place, because I have not come across such name in Biblical stories before, except in the Book of Mormon.

      Now that you have pointed it out, I know I'm not the only one thinking that those who would believe in such things are moronic.

    2. Best to not throw the word 'moron' out when speaking of other religions since many people not of your faith could likely claim that your beliefs are 'moronic'. Such perjoratives serve no academic purpose.

      If you've noticed the capital of the Comoros Islands is called Moroni. Its a place name in a Muslim country in the Indian Ocean. Is that moronic? There is also a town in Burma called Manoron in precisely the area that Dr. Olsen claims was the location of the Book of Mormon city of Moron. The funniness of the name Moron is not as big a stretch as you make it seem.

    3. Noted your point my friend, but no apology offered. The moronic reference is not to the Mormons but to the Malays who accept the theory without knowing where it comes from. The Mormons can have any faith they want, but the Malays, being Muslims, are bounded with their Islamic faith, namely, that there is no more prophet after Muhammad. It would be moronic for them to believe in Ralph Olsen's conjecture, for it contradicts their Islamic faith in the first place.

      My original article, therefore, stands as it is.

    4. The Jaredite and Nephite tribes, according to Mormonism, flourished before Muhammad. As such, it would not be moronic for a Muslim to accept the possibility of Malay prophets 1000 BC - 400 AD.

      You are assuming that a Muslim must embrace Joseph Smith as a Christian prophet simply because he claimed to be one. I think it is quite possible to accept Joseph Smith as the translator of a lost text, without accepting him as a Prophet. Its possible to entertain the idea behind the Malay Hypothesis, without being a Mormon or a moron.

    5. I am still curious if a Muslim could accept that prophets did exist on the Malay peninsula between 1000 BC - 400 AD. Muhammad may have been the last, but is there a reason not to believe that there were tribes with prophets before him that migrated to Malay?

    6. It is generally accepted that there was no prophet between Jesus and Muhammad (peace and blessing be on them both). A thousand year before Christ, however, is a different story altogether. But I still reject Olsen theory for the reasons enumerated in my original article, although I accept the possibility that a prophet might have been sent to the Malay Peninsula before the appearance of Jesus Christ.

  3. assalam..hi, muslims generally will never accept what dr ralph olsen theory about the lost tribe of the israel n the connection of the malays origin to them.(even with dna proof).its not important to us.We Muslims believe that All mankind are from ADAM(pbuh).that is the main thing.The best among us is who are the most faithfull and summit oneself to ONE GOD(ALLAH).THe flow of order to surrender oneself comes from zabur,torah,bible and Al Quran,thru His chosen prophets(messenger).What Allah plan to happen to mankind ,it WILL happen to us.The coming of Imam Mahdi..and the black banner force.

  4. Thank you for your respectful comments. I'm a Mormon and enjoyed reading your words on this theory. Even though I don't believe in the Malay theory it's interesting to think about.

  5. Interesting. I was hoping to hear from someone who is well verse in both the Quran & Mormon Bible to comment intellectually on this matter. Actually that is what Prof Ralph should done in his research initially. Surprisingly his works have some similarities with some of the phrases in the Quran.

  6. Kepada saudara2 sekalian, banyak sekali yang mempersoalkan tentang melayu dan israel... lebih dari itu, ada juga melayu yang mencaci maki bangsa sendiri dgn perkataan yg merendahkan bangsa melayu... tetapi jawapan yg kukuh adalah rahsia Allah swt... bagi yang banyak pertikaian itu.... apa kata buat sembahyang hajat atau sembahyang istiqarah... mudah mudahan datang petunjuk dari Allah tentang asal usul melayu.... samada diberitahu dalam mimpi.. atau penemuan sesuatu pertunjuk yang tidak diduga.... ya mengkaji ya mengkaji... tetapi jawapan hanya dalam bentuk teori semata mata... tetapi jawapan yang benar lg utuh ada pada pencipta... buatlah sembahyang hajat dan mohon supaya Allah buktikan dari mana asal usul melayu

  7. The Book of Mormon claims that half of the Lehite party were from the family of a man named Ishmael, likely an Arab. So this would support the idea that Lembah Bujang might have been settled by a group of Arabs connected to the House of Joseph.

    Its a very interesting idea, especially now that boats possibly dating back to the Book of Mormon account have just been discovered in Sungai Petani.

  8. Here an intresting video showing between Book of Mormon and Malay.


  9. thank you for your post. you write very well and i appreciate your effort. just an observation, in terms of religious historical references, we too often quote western (mainly English) sources whereas there's an abundant of information in arabic, sanskrit, japanese etc...

    as you know, some of these english writers / historians tend to be selective in choice of references to quote.

    with regards to this malay dilemma, i'd like to think the answer is probably in arabic...