There are at least two problems with viewing the “chopping down the tree” story of Zemnarihah’s execution as evidence of an ancient origin for the Book of Mormon:
- It’s anachronistic, as far as we understand it. As stated by Welch “Although the practice cannot be documented as early as the time of Lehi, Jewish practice shortly after the time of Christ expressly required that the tree upon which the culprit was hung had to be buried with the body.”
- The typical Jewish custom was only to hang the person after they were dead (see ‘Capital Punishment’). I need to go back and read Welch’s research carefully to see exactly how this fact might play into his findings.
Hanging popular execution method in early US
Execution by hanging was fairly popular in the early US before 1830, so it’s reasonable that a modern author would include such an execution. [This does not account for the cutting down of the tree, of course]
Unware of hanging being used by Native Americans
I’m no expert in this area, but after a few google searches, I’m not aware of Mesoamericans or the Hopewells ever hanging people to execute them.1 Obviously, more research is needed.