Importance of Historicity for Book of Mormon Theology

There has been lots of kerfuffle about if apologetic work is damaging or necessary. My own response is its not dangerous, but it can be spiritually irrelevant or stagnant. At the same time there is a time and a place for defending the faith or some teachings. For each person who might have been turned off by the work, there are an equal number inspired by apologetic arguments and grow more faithful. It isn’t a clear cut binary situation no matter how strong the disagreement for one side or the other. There can be a multitude of Mormon Study approaches to history, doctrine, and the like with various audiences reading. One apologetic is critical to fight for and that is defending the historicity of the Book of Mormon.

The importance of the historicity of the Book of Mormon was recognized at the beginning of its production. Even before it was sold to the general public, a mocking thief published what was purported to be part of its pages. It read like what was expected from a farm boy with little education, complete with typical Indian representations that last even today. When the book came out, the complexity and seriousness of it forced a stronger attack. Joseph Smith could no more be the author, but a far more educated individual had to have been responsible. When this didn’t seem to cut it (although such arguments still exist) then it was the product of Joseph Smith’s environment he got from every and any corner his curiosity could find. This remains the dominant criticism of the book as historical with DNA the supposed nail in the coffin. This ignores that the book is as spiritually and literarily forceful today and reads far more like modern(ist) literature than the romanticism of its publishing era. The authors are self aware, holy scripture is considered amendable and reductionist, editorial comment often contains meta-narrative, and the writing process itself is explored. The depth is absolutely astounding.

Over at Times and Seasons, Steve Smith asks the question, “So why must a scholar of Mormon Studies feel compelled to take a stance with regard to many issues such as Book of Mormon historicity?” He likens it to “bracketing” the Garden of Eden, The Flood, and so forth. This brazen question is astonishing for anyone who is familiar with the Book of Mormon’s own text and arguments. Joseph Smith called it, “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” He spent a lifetime reiterating and gathering evidence for the historical truth of the Book of Mormon, and not just its teachings. His short commentary on a book about Central American ruins is the most famous example. There was only one other subject that Joseph Smith declared a foundation for Mormonism, and that the Divinity of Jesus Christ. He stated, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” There was no equivocation of the reality of Jesus as Savior and there shouldn’t be for the historical truth of the Book of Mormon if you take Joseph Smith seriously.

The History outside of Historicity

Those who reject the historicity of the Book of Mormon often quickly dismiss the events related to its writing. From the start there was a physical element to the spiritual that transcended the text. Joseph Smith came home and told his family the encounters with an Angel that had a mortal life in the pages of the book. This Angel, according to his mother as told by him, would tell Joseph Smith the history of the Nephites or ancestors of the Native Americans. This same Angel told him where to find the gold plates on the very real land near the family farm.

He was not alone in having an encounter with the golden book or the people in its narrative. His wife often felt the plates from under a sheet. It is even hinted at in Doctrine and Covenants 8 and 9 that Oliver Cowdery handled the gold plates and seers in the process of trying to translate them by the Gift of God. Of course, there is the famous eight witnesses who handled the plates and the three that witnessed both the plates and the Angel Moroni. The fact these plates were taken back to heaven is galling to some, but Joseph Smith wasn’t the only one to claim to see or handle them despite popular depictions of his lone testimony.

There were, more importantly, practical theological developments based on the idea of the historicity of the book. The Priesthood is among the most directly inspired by believing in the narrative:

We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

. . . The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1829, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized.

From the supposed non-historical Book of Mormon came a very historical claimed event. Jumping from non-reality to reality so quickly and easily must bring the whole into question. This is repeated time and again. A bit of evidence includes the Anthon Transcript incident that is not rejected as historical, and yet it wouldn’t have happened if not for the Book of Mormon’s interpretation of Isaiah to prove itself. Narrative flows into history that then goes back upon itself to the text.

Internal Testimonies

What the writers in the Book of Mormon say about the historicity of the text is equally as precise in its claims. “I Nephi, having been born of goodly parents,” (1 Nephi 1:1) is a statement of a life having been lived. Each prophet and writer mentioned in the text somehow relates back to these first words. There is a long chain of generations that stretches until the last prophet Moroni, “Behold, I make an end of speaking concerning this people. I am the son of Mormon, and my father was a descendant of Nephi,” where he ties his identity in with the gold plates that Joseph Smith will interpret. “And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord; the plates thereof are of no worth, because of the commandment of the Lord. For he truly saith that no one shall have them to get gain; but the record thereof is of great worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless.” (Moroni 8:13-14).

Like the Bible, lineage is of great importance to the identity of the individual’s history. Who one is born from has implications for responsibilities and expectations. “I am Ammoron, and a descendant of Zoram,” (Alma 54:23), “He that wrote this record was Ether, and he was a descendant of Coriantor.”(Ether 1:6), “Now, among those who joined the people of the Lord, there were none who were Amalekites or Amulonites, or who were of the order of Nehor, but they were actual descendants of Laman and Lemuel.”(Alma 24:29). To make the case that these were not merely made up bloodlines, Nephi and others made sure to indicate they came from an even more distinguished background. They came from Joseph who was a slave in Egypt before becoming its protector, “And thus my father, Lehi, did discover the genealogy of his fathers. And Laban also was a descendant of Joseph, wherefore he and his fathers had kept the records.”(1 Nephi 5:16). Records upon records, with family relations stretching back to a Jewish hero testify for real people contained in its pages.

This isn’t all, but the words are testified to in no uncertain terms. Nephi ends his writing by declaring (2 Nephi 33:10-11):

10 And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.

11 And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye—for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness.

After the record of Jesus Christ visiting the lands of Nephi, we read (3 Nephi 29:1-9):

1 And now behold, I say unto you that when the Lord shall see fit, in his wisdom, that these sayings shall come unto the Gentiles according to his word, then ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel, concerning their restoration to the lands of their inheritance, is already beginning to be fulfilled.

2 And ye may know that the words of the Lord, which have been spoken by the holy prophets, shall all be fulfilled; and ye need not say that the Lord delays his coming unto the children of Israel.

3 And ye need not imagine in your hearts that the words which have been spoken are vain, for behold, the Lord will remember his covenant which he hath made unto his people of the house of Israel.

4 And when ye shall see these sayings coming forth among you, then ye need not any longer spurn at the doings of the Lord, for the sword of his justice is in his right hand; and behold, at that day, if ye shall spurn at his doings he will cause that it shall soon overtake you.

5 Wo unto him that spurneth at the doings of the Lord; yea, wo unto him that shall deny the Christ and his works!

6 Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!

Moroni is no less adamant that he exists as a person and the records are in fact real. He leaves with a warning for those who judge them harshly, and personal reasons for writing (Mormon 9:30-35):

30 Behold, I speak unto you as though I spake from the dead; for I know that ye shall have my words.

31 Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.

32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.

33 And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold, ye would have had no imperfection in our record.

34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language; and because that none other people knoweth our language, therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.

35 And these things are written that we may rid our garments of the blood of our brethren, who have dwindled in unbelief.

There is a strong sense of historicity running through the text, with no hint that what is narrated shouldn’t be taken as facts. The opposite has to be said. Every sentence is written in a way that screams to be taken at face value. It wants to be accepted or rejected with no half measures. As Ben S. explains about the title page in the Times and Season discussion on apologia:

1) “show[ing] unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers.” Now, if there are no Nephites, then God didn’t actually do anything for the remnant of the house of Israel, as described therein.

2) “that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.” Those covenants are described, remade, and modeled several times in the Book of Mormon. But again, if there were no Nephites at all, this is nonsensical, and God never did so.

3) “convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations”. But again, if there were no Nephites and no Christ-visit to them, than God has not manifested himself to all nations.

So the Book of Mormon is nonsensical as a divinely-inspired allegory, because the genre of allegory cannot sustain the historical goals it sets for itself in witnessing to these things. If you bring in a legal witness who says “yes, so and so actually came to my house, was present. Well ok, that never actually happened at all, I’m just making an allegory about his character”, it’s not a valid witness.

There are some very specific claims made inside the book. Miracles are real! Jesus is the Christ! The Nephites and Lamanites did live and die to testify of God’s promises and warnings! The Book of Mormon can only be understood and believed in the context of the history its narrative presents and interacts with on each page.

The Bible is the Guide

As pointed out, there is a deep connection between the persons and events of the Bible and what is in the Book of Mormon. Once again, we turn to 1 Nephi 1:4 where a very historical connection to the Book of Mormon narrative is set down, “For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.” Here we have a name Zedekiah, a city Jerusalem, and prophesied event the destruction of Jerusalem that is historical. Even the time period of 600 B.C. can be pointed out. The implications are clear even if a few try to ignore it; we are dealing with a claim of facts.

The last pages teach how to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Its focus in Mormoni 10:3 is on the historical blessings of God, “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.” More than words and teachings are at the heart of a testimony, but history itself. The Bible is the center of our pondering. We must consider what God has done throughout the human narrative, and the Book of Mormon events are part of that tapestry.

conclusion

All of this is a preliminary discussion into the ways believing in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is essential. For the same reason it wouldn’t be such a good idea to deny that Jesus Christ really is the Son of God and Savior of the World who was Resurrected and Atoned for our sins. Sure, you could be a good moral Mormon in name, but it would be rejecting a core theology. Mormonism as a religion would be made impotent. For most faithful and active Mormons, the historicity of the Book of Mormon is as much a cornerstone of the faith as Jesus Christ.

51 thoughts on “Importance of Historicity for Book of Mormon Theology

  1. Please explain why believing in the historicity of the Book of Mormon is essential.

  2. I read what you wrote but it is not essential to believe in the BoM’s historicity to believe it is the word of God!

  3. Here’s my tl;dr comment, so take it for what it’s worth:

    I think the truth is very much independent of the way it is received or delivered. If I eat a burrito full of bad meat that causes me food poisoning and hallucinations, during which I imagine that Real Salt Lake beat the Colorado Rapids last night, I think the proposition of my hallucination is certainly suspect, but the truth of the outcome of the game is in no way affected by how I perceive it, am ignorant of it, receive it, or choose to incorporate it into my life.

    So is Mormon theology more suspect if the Book of Mormon is complete gibberish? Absolutely. But the vehicle of the theology doesn’t in any way affect the truthfulness of it.

    If that makes sense.

  4. jettboy –

    A strict belief in historicity is really problematic.

    Consider the following:

    * No real evidence of any civilization or population that can be identified as either Nephite or Lamanite despite repeated attempts to do so.

    * No real evidence of many of the materials, crops, etc. in the New World pre-Columbus on any scale whatsoever.

    * No DNA evidence of Middle Eastern genetics in the Western Hemisphere.

    * Repeated statements dating back to Joseph Smith that the Lamanites are the forefathers of most if not all Native Americans.

    * A strong belief up through David O. McKay that the scientific finds would show the truth of the Book of Mormon.

    So, how does an objective observer deal with all this? It seems that there are three options: A) The Book of Mormon is a fraud B) It happened somewhere besides the Americas or C) It is inspired fiction.

    That is the quandary that many find themselves in today.

    I think “C” is the best option going forward.

  5. Jettboy, I think you are right to say that the historicity of the Book of Mormon, is, in many ways, essential to Mormon theology. I didn’t use to think so, but several recent discussions have convinced me that, while several important, enlightening and satisfying moral and spiritual lessons can be learned from the Book of Mormon without accepting it as literal fact, doing so ignores what the Book declares to be its main purpose, as outlined in Moroni 10:3 as being to show the reader what wonderful things God as done for His children. It provides historical evidence for a loving God.

    Steve, I acknowledge that there are several problems with a literal reading of the Book of Mormon. That is why I myself am something of a fencesitter on the Book’s historicity. I wouldn’t be prepared to state conclusively that I either embrace or reject the Book’s historicity, but if I were forced to choose one, I would probably say that I believe it is more likely that the Book of Mormon is not historical (although, as I said, I am by no means convinced either way).

    So where does that leave me? Well, I must acknowledge that I cannot fully value the Book of Mormon for fulfilling what I believe is its primary purpose, since that would require accepting its historicity, which I struggle to do. Instead, I value it dearly for reasons other than its primary purpose. I value it for the valuable moral and spiritual lessons it teaches me as well as for its deep, satisfying doctrinal discourses. I value it for its rich narratives and beautiful stories of faith, charity and courage. That is why I love the Book of Mormon, and that is why I maintain a belief in its divine inspiration (whether that inspiration wass through ancient American prophets or Joseph Smith Jun.), despite being undecided towards its historicity.

  6. I agree with themormonbrit on this one. I recognize why believing in it’s historicity makes it a richer experience for those who read it. Also, it’s clear as Jettboy noted, that Joseph Smith firmly believed in it’s historicity, as did all those involved in it’s translation, who handled the plates and saw angels.

    I can understand the frustration people like jettboy must have with non-literal believers. After all, if we accept the golden plates, the angels, the statements of the witnesses, and the belief of Joseph Smith in his work, then why on earth can’t we accept it’s historicity? It seems such an obvious leap to make. Isn’t it much more logical to simply believe in the Book of Mormon historically, than believe that God would have inspired a fictional account, brought about in such a convoluted, physically awkward way, with plates, sword, and witnesses?

    But for all the reasons Steve mentioned, as well as the myriad of anachronisms, 19th century theological elements, passages lifted from the KJV, and then it’s awkward strangeness on so many accounts, there are many of us that just can’t seem to make that leap from belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet, to belief in Book of Mormon historicity. The book is too strange and problematic to have such a simple and self-evident explanation. But it is too rich and beautiful to dismiss, nor is it easy to dismiss the many 19th century witnesses of it’s bizarre genesis.

    I think non-literal belief came into vogue when serious LDS scholars started viewing the Book of Abraham as a revelation rather than a translation. Once Joseph’s translation process for the Book of Abraham came into question, it became an easy step to question it for the Book of Mormon. Viewing the Book of Mormon as a revelation, rather than a translation, made it easier to view the anachronisms in a nuanced light, rather than imagining that they all came from ancient sources.

    Whatever the Book of Mormon is, it is challenging, a stumbling block, a rock of offense. I believe God deliberately set it up that way. Non-literal believers have found a way not to stumble on it. So have literal believers. We both accept it as divine. We both love the book. I think that too much insistence on literal belief as a prerequisite for full fellowship, would cast a great many devout and faithful people from the fold. Non-literal belief is an important approach for myself, and many others. And it keeps us in the church.

  7. It seems pretty clear to me that the Book of Mormon is a historical document. It seems more clear to me every time I read it. The writers go to great lengths to show they are writing down true history as they see it. It is history written from one perspective, this is true, but all histories are to a certain extent. All of Steve’s concerns (and more) have been “proven” about the Bible. Just to use one big example, there are huge historical problems with the date of the Exodus that the Bible seems to claim. There are huge problems with the timeline from the Exodus to David and Solomon.

    You can either concentrate on these problems or you can accept you simply do not know the answers to all of the concerns.

    New scientific evidence can change perceptions pretty quickly. Just 20 years ago, the prevailing view was that all native Americans came over the Siberian land bridge. Now, there is widespread acceptance that there was movement back and forth to the Americas, just as the Book of Mormon implies. New discoveries will likely be forthcoming, and those with eyes to see will accept them.

  8. Geoff B. –

    But, there never has been a question that the Israelite kingdom existed.

    Sure, the Old Testament does have a considerable number of mistakes. But, the overall narrative is grounded in verifiable events.

    The biggest problem with the Book of Mormon is that evidence continues to gather against it. Talk to an American archaeologist. The evidence is pretty brutal.

    P.S. I don’t get the reference to people traveling back and forth across land bridge. We do have recent evidence of three waves coming across in a fairly narrow range (that was the big announcement a week or so ago).

  9. Steve, or anyone else,

    Lack of current evidence is not proof against. So I think that there is an option D – evidence may come eventually. My sense is that archaeological efforts have not even scratched the surface in this area. I think a patient faith is probably the best option moving forward.

  10. Steve, nothing is ever as clear-cut as the statements you make. New scientific evidence comes all the time. The fact that you are so intent on “proving” your position shows you do not have anything close to an open mind on the issue. For many years I read the Biblical Archeology Review (which dealt with the Middle East and Mediterranean for obvious reasons), and the disagreements between archeologists were legion. I have seen many Mesoamerican sites (Tikal, Copan, etc), and discussed casually with a few archeologists, and I am struck with how much they do not know about Mayan culture, rather than how much they claim to know. So, claiming the evidence is “brutal” is clearly false.

    I am patiently keeping an open mind while maintaining my spiritual witness of the truth of the Gospel. It is pretty obvious to me when others do not have an open mind.

  11. Steve, you obviously have an agenda. And that’s ok, at least you’re open and honest about it.

    No two American archaeologists can really agree on much of anything. They fight terrific battles among themselves on the most basic of Mesoamerican postulates. To rely on their pronouncements as “proof” that the Book of Mormon is fraudulent is very shaky ground. Thirty years ago they poo-pooed and mocked the idea that there were any transoceanic voyages in ancient times. Now the idea has entered the mainstream.

    You should check out the book “1491″ — quite groundbreaking research that shows the recent prevailing ideas of what the Americas were like prior to Columbus has been skewed and faulty for several decades. And leading the faulty assessment were the dogmatic assertions of the “experts”.

  12. Given that (a) general Biblical locales have never been “lost” and have maintained a continuous identity, and (b) Biblical archaeologists looking for Biblical locales have outnumbered Book of Mormon archaeologists a thousand to one for four times as long, it’s no wonder that the research into Biblical archaeology buries BoM archaeology by sheer volume of paper. Middle Eastern archaeologists are informed by Biblical history in everything they do; non-Mormon American archaeologists simply don’t engage with the Book of Mormon; they offer little evidence for it because that’s not what they’re seeking.

  13. The dishonesty of the people questioning historicity knows no bounds. A reminder to readers: the claim that evidence is against historicity is necessarily filled with absolutes such as “No real evidence of any civilization or population that can be identified as either Nephite or Lamanite despite repeated attempts to do so.” Notice the classic anti-Mormon trick here: there IS amazing evidence that there were civilizations in Mesoamerica, but because nothing has been found referring to Lamanites and Nephites and Jaredites, there is “no real evidence.”

    I find it astounding that there was indeed a civilization called the Olmecs that thrived in southern Mexico exactly at the time that the Jaredites were said to have lived there. And that civilization has a fascinating creation story about traveling to Mexico is “dark holes.” And that civilization disappeared around the time that the Jaredites are said to have disappeared. And just a few hundred years later, just as the Book of Mormon describes, another civilization (the Mayans) begins to grow a few hundred miles south and has a long history of wars and contentions.

    Note that I am not claiming that I can definitely state that the Olmecs were the Jaredites and the early Mayans were Nephites and Lamanites. If we have learned anything over the years, it is that firm statements of facts regarding such things are problematic.

    But I am stating that it is absurd and dishonest to claim there is no possible evidence. The fact is, there is possible evidence that could lead to new discoveries over time.

  14. Geoff B. –

    I would appreciate if you wouldn’t make assumptions about me. I’m active and believing. My beliefs just vary from yours.

    As to the evidence, we are just going to have to disagree.

    As to the Olmecs, I think you may be mixing up creation myths. My understanding is that we have lack any Olmec stories, only what we can discern from the statutes (mainly the types of deities). I think you are referring to the Aztecs’ Aztlan myth.

  15. @Steve, I noted in my comment on the post of Nibley’s Approach to the Book of Mormon, that I choose option (D) That the Lord deliberately and intentionally withholds the “best” evidence, so that we might have faith in the Church, and faith in the Book of Mormon, but not know with absolute certainty that it is true history. For such would essentially prove the Church is true, and that Joseph was a true prophet. Let me say it one more time – It won’t happen. We won’t ever find that sure evidence, but that doesn’t mean the book is not historical. Moreover, many stories in the Bible don’t have any evidence for them and/or haven’t been proven, but that doesn’t mean they are not historical either.

    I think there is a multiplicity of evidence that the Book of Mormon is historical, and is an ancient book, which evidence is still coming forth in leaps and bounds, if one has a desire to learn about it. There is a library of books teeming with information on the subject. But none of that will prove anything. The Lord gives us a little here, and a little there, to “maintain a climate in which belief may flourish.” But I don’t think it will be until the Millennium or thereafter that we will have solid proof or sure evidence of anything in the gospel, including the Book of Mormon.

    Elder Holland, as recently as two years ago, made an exceptionally strong stand that a historical belief in the Book of Mormon is vital to its truth claims, and even more, is vital to the belief of each Church member. He sounded a warning, “perhaps more applicable inside the Church than outside it.” Elder Holland notes the historicity of the book a number of times:

    • “…taken from Moroni’s final lines of testimony, written 1,000 years after Lehi’s vision…”
    • “…would [Joseph & Hyrum] blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?… They would not do that!” – [I would note that even "inspired" fiction is still fiction.]
    • “None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.”
    • “If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages… then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived…”
    • “Now, I did not sail with the brother of Jared in crossing an ocean, settling in a new world. I did not hear King Benjamin speak his angelically delivered sermon. I did not proselyte with Alma and Amulek nor witness the fiery death of innocent believers. I was not among the Nephite crowd who touched the wounds of the resurrected Lord, nor did I weep with Mormon and Moroni over the destruction of an entire civilization.”
    • “I ask that my testimony of the Book of Mormon and all that it implies, given today under my own oath and office, be recorded by men on earth and angels in heaven. I hope I have a few years left in my ‘last days,’ but whether I do or do not, I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth…”
  16. Let me add to MormonChess’s comments by saying that I also came away from reading “1491″ realizing that there are literally hundreds and hundreds of ancient American civilizations. New ones are being discovered all the time that no one ever guessed existed. The take away message of the book is that we really don’t know very much at all about American archeology, and what we do know is disputed, even violently, among serious scholars.

    Anyone who makes difinitive declarations about the Book of Mormon based on some archaeological theory has an agenda or an unwarranted faith in appeals to archeological authority.

  17. Steve, I don’t know you. You may be active and believing, and let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say you are. But you are, unwittingly or not, engaging in anti-Mormon tactics, tactics that we have become very familiar with over the years in the blogging world.

    First you claim there definitely is no evidence (and note there is a difference between evidence and proof). I give you cursory evidence (which is not proof, just some interesting corollaries, which is all we can really come up with at this point considering archeology is a very contentious subject).

    I have been traveling to Mexico for 30 years. There is a lot of archeological evidence that has been handed down by the Mexican mestizo culture and is recognized by (some) Mexican archeologists as believable. To give one example, the Quinami Indians were precursors to the Olmecs. They have a creation story that they came to the Americas from another land in seven “caves” or “dark caverns.” These “caves” allowed them to cross the ocean. This creation story is memorialized in a mural at the mayor’s palace in Tlaxcala and is also discussed at the natural history museum in Mexico City.

    There is another creation story that is memorialized in a plaque on the wall of the mayor’s office in Cholula discussing the origins of the early Mexican Indians. This story shows that the people had tried to build a large mountain in a land far away across the sea and the people were punished and scattered by the gods. Seven survivors crossed the sea and came to the Americas.

    Again, neither of these stories is definitive. I don’t base my faith on these stories. They may be disproven someday, and I am completely OK with that. But to claim that there is “no real evidence” is just a complete falsehood. There is evidence that is disputed, but there is evidence.

  18. The evidence is besides the point. No matter if you believe there is evidence or not, the Book of Mormon leaves very little leg room to deny historicity in its interpretation and theological teachings. Those who do so, that at least someone pointed out, must take leaps as huge as those who believe its of historical validity. There is no way to disentangle historicity from the book without seriously causing religious and theological (not to mention early Mormon history) damage. If I had the time I could do a whole book on why this is the case. It took me a lot of time just to write this post because of the plethora of examples for each section I had to pick from as examples.

    I find it wonderful that others who don’t fully or at all believe the Book of Mormon is historical finds some good in it. There are religious texts that I can say the same about that I don’t believe. However, I have to at least be honest enough to know my unbelief is counter to the reason those texts exist in the first place. For that reason I don’t become for example a Greek Pagan when reading Hesiod, Muslim when reading the Koran, or Hindu when reading Bhagavad Gita.

    As for the Book of Abraham, I don’t consider that to be at all in the same league as the Book of Mormon. That is a different subject altogether and maybe in the future will explain myself.

  19. One more quick thought in support of Jettboy’s excellent post.

    In his interview with PBS for the documentary “The Mormons,” Elder Holland of the 12 Apostles said:

    There are plenty of people who question the historicity of the Book of Mormon, and they are firmly in this church — firmly, in their mind, in this church — and the church isn’t going to take action against that. [The church] probably will be genuinely disappointed, but there isn’t going to be action against that, not until it starts to be advocacy: “Not only do I disbelieve in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, I want you to disbelieve.” At that point, we’re going to have a conversation. A little of that is more tolerated than I think a lot of people think it should be. But I think we want to be tolerant any way we can. … “Patient” maybe is a better word than “tolerant.” We want to be patient and charitable to the extent that we can, but there is a degree beyond which we can’t go. …

    Now among some fringe members this statement has taken on a folkloric quality in which they tell themselves that Elder Holland said you can be firmly in the church while rejecting the historicity of the Book of Mormon. But that interpretation is clearly based on a sloppy, selective reading. Look at the qualifiers: they are only firmly in the church “in their minds.” That suggests that the reality of their firmness is likely only in their minds.

    Now, he says they aren’t going to discipline anyone because they personally don’t believe in the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but he indicates very strongly that such is the case as long as as you don’t try to get others to disbelieve as well. In other words, it is an incorrect belief that can be tolerated as long as it is kept to oneself, but advocating against Book of Mormon historicity is apostasy and in so far as it is tolerated it is because of charity for the apostate, not because it is an acceptable belief for a member to advocate.

    That goes for advocacy in blog comments and posts, as well as books, periodicals, film, symposia, etc.

  20. It was Steve Smith, not Steve Fleming who made the comment that the OP references.

  21. There are hundreds of pieces of evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Little by little they come forth. Ancient barley has been found. Statues of horses from the Book of Mormon time frame. Cities surrounded by pallisades (breastwork of timbers) surrounded by ditches.

    Thor Hyerdahl proved that people could sail both to and from South America from the Asian Pacific.

    Those who claim that DNA is the nail in the coffin are not just parroting the anti-mormon line, they are wrong. Such a claim makes assumptions that the Book of Mormon does not support. The Book of Mormon leaves open the possibility of pre-existing civilizations in the Americas, plus the admixture of more immigrants after the time of Moroni, plus the existence of other civilizations in non-Nephite/non-Lamanite lands of the Americas at the same time.

    I also believe in a miraculous God. The God who can heal people, cure blindness and lameness, and even bring decomposing corpses back to life certainly has the power to alter DNA.

    The earthquakes and upheavals of land at the time of the crucifixion also caused a lot of cities to disappear in the earth and under water.

    People used to mock the idea of ancient records on gold plates until such items were also found in the old world.

    The trend is clear. Every time the critics point to something and say “Aha!”, an answer to it eventually comes.

    How do those people, now deceased and in the spirit world, who back in their lifetimes left the church because there was no evidence of barley in ancient america, feel about the barley issue now that it has been found?

    What are the critics looking for, a buried stone sign saying “Welcome to Zarahemla?”

    If you demand cold hard irrefutable proof, what about the Egyptian captivity and the Exodus? There is no proof nor any sort of evidence, outside the books of Moses, that Hebrews were kepts as slaves in Egypt, that there were 10 plagues, or that any such Hebrew slaves left Egypt en masse. The Egyptians were meticulous record keepers. Surely there would have been an Egyptian record of such things. But there isn’t.

    What documents do we have from the individuals who saw the resurrected Christ in ancient Israel? We have documents from Peter, James, John, Paul, and Luke. Many other supposedly saw the risen Lord, as described in the gospels and in Acts, but what documentation did they leave directly? Does the number even reach 11 or 12? And by the way, we have no originals. The oldes ones are copies of copies, or copies of copies of copies.

    Yet we have 11 men other than Joseph Smith who left documentation and direct testimony that they saw the golden plates of Mormon.

    If the Book of Mormon is not historical, then either Joseph Smith lied about being visited and instructed by Moroni, or Moroni lied to Joseph. If Joseph Smith lied about Moroni, he wasn’t a prophet, and if Moroni lied to Joseph, he wasn’t an angel of the Lord.

    Elder Holland was right. The “inspired fiction” argument is not logical. Either the events in the Book of Mormon happened as claimed, and the events surrounding its coming forth happened as claimed, or the whole work of Joseph Smith and the restoration is a sham.

    I feel sorry for those who buy into the “inspired fiction” story, because I’m afraid they are inching closer to the exit and throwing away the whole thing.

  22. J Max: As it was explained to me, persoanl apostasy doesn’t get one excommunicated. Like Elder Holland explained, _advocacy_ of apostasy does.

    Since the Book of Mormon is the keystone, I think someone who disbelieves its historicity is an apostate.

    Geoff B: I’ve seen “false flag” attacks on the church in LDS blogs before, where an anti-mormon pretends to be a member of the church. Every once in a while a person or a group from one of the ex-mo blogs/boards comes into the Mormon blogosphere to play such games.

    To those who think the Book of Mormon needs archealogical or any kind of scientific evidence: What religion/church goes around getting people to join them based on archealogical evidence? And why do you imply that the LDS church should do so?

  23. “What religion/church goes around getting people to join them based on archealogical evidence?”

    I would say Evangelical Christians do all the time. That isn’t the main arguments they use, but its something they bring up all the time in discussions about why they are right and everyone else is wrong. It goes something like this: all these places and people are known to exist and therefore the Bible’s teachings and miracles really did happen. The irony is that by their own logic the Doctrine and Covenants can be proven true as well, and since it testifies of the Book of Mormon, well.

  24. It also seems to me that those who claim that the Book of Mormon is “allegorical” have not read much allegorical literature and don’t really know what the word means. Allegory is a form of Rhetoric, an extended metaphor. In an allegory, the characters, places, and plot are symbols that represent specific ideas.

    Compare Piers Plowman, the Pilgrim’s Progress, or even Young Goodman Brown and The Phantom Tollbooth to the Book of Mormon. Jacob 5 is an allegory, where the vineyard, the workers, the owner, and what they do are symbolic.

    You are confusing literary applicability (as Tolkien called it) with allegory. As Tolkien said, “I think that many confuse ‘applicability’ with ‘allegory’; but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”

    For the Book of Mormon to be allegorical, it would have had to have been constructed as such by its author.

    I think you can only argue that the Book of Mormon is either real or feigned history, not allegory except where it is expressly identified as such (allegory of the olive tree, brazen serpent, etc.).

    Also, as I have said before historical and symbolic/applicable are not mutually exclusive. Just because something is symbolic, does not mean that it is not also actual history..

  25. For the Book of Mormon to be allegorical, it would have had to have been constructed as such by its author.. No problem, it’s author was God.

  26. Another reason Mesoamerican archaeology is behind probably has to do with the climate: Hot and wet = Things rot and crumble away. Contrast that with the Middle East: Hot and dry = Things get preserved.

    I read once that in Mesoamerica, of those sites for which it is known that some ancient structure or complex lies under the ground, only 5% have been excavated. And that’s only of the known sites; who knows how many oodles more there may be (e.g., they recently discovered the first known ancient urban complex in the Amazon). Mesoamerican archaeology is in its infancy, and there is far less funding for it. It’s very premature to call the game this early on.

  27. I know my personal history is often told certain ways to make a particular point. I imagine it is even moreso for a history specifically compiled to highlight Gods’s dealing with His covenant people. It isn’t a historical document. That doesn’t mean it isn’t telling stories that actually happened.

  28. We could go all day citing evidence for and against the Book of Mormon. But ultimately, what Jettboy said is correct: “The evidence is beside the point.”

    Elder Oaks said something similar to FARMS: It is our position that secular evidence can neither prove nor disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Its authenticity depends, as it says, on a witness of the Holy Spirit. Our side will settle for a draw, but those who deny the historicity of the Book of Mormon cannot settle for a draw. They must try to disprove its historicity–or they seem to feel a necessity to do this–and in this they are unsuccessful because even the secular evidence, viewed in its entirety, is too complex for that. . . .

    “The secular evidence is complex.” Oaks suggests that it can’t be proven one way or the other, making it a perfect test of faith. Those who use geological or DNA evidence to prove it is false have to ignore the evidence of the witnesses, and vice versa. We are dealing with a hopelessly complex and contradictory set of evidences.

    God has witnessed to me through the Book of Mormon, and I’ve felt the Spirit whisper countless times to me that it is true. But I don’t infer historicity from my own spiritual experience. God speaks to me through the Book of Mormon, I know it comes from Him. But I don’t assume that God wouldn’t stoop to inspire fiction, and pass it off as historical. He did that in the Bible with Adam’s rib, so why wouldn’t he do that with the Book of Mormon?

  29. I said: “For the Book of Mormon to be allegorical, it would have had to have been constructed as such by its author.”

    Howard: “No problem, it’s author was God.”

    If you are right then God isn’t a very good allegory writer. I mean, some barely educated tinker named John Bunyan was better at writing allegories. Perhaps he had a ghostwriter for Jacob chapter 5, because it’s hard to believe that he could write the allegory of the olive tree and then fail so completely for the rest of the book.

    Like I said, you can argue that it is feigned history with a great deal of applicability, or as SilverRain said, true accounts of things that really happened but are told in a way to emphasize certain points, but it isn’t an allegory.

  30. The BoM is filled with promises made from God to individuals — one of those (promises) being the actual coming forth of the book itself. If God isn’t talking to real people then the whole thing is theologically bankrupt. Things like faith, agency, covenants, etc., have no real meaning if there’s no evidence of them ever being efficacious.

  31. I believe we are getting somewhat off topic. This discussion should not be a debate about whether or not the Book of Mormon is historical, but rather whether or not its historicity is essential to its theological and doctrinal value. As I’ve already stated, I believe the Book of Mormon loses a lot of its potency and power when it is not viewed as a literal historical document. However, I can nonetheless gain some valuable insight, and I am happy to do so, treating it in the spirit of Tolkien’s ‘literary applicability’. I can get something out of it; sure, perhaps not what it was originally intended for me to get out of it, but I can get something wonderful and profound out of it all the same.

    I also just wanted to add that I personally am somewhat uncomfortable with the notion of seeking a spiritual confirmation of historical truths. For me, that is somewhat equivalent to seeking a scientific/historical confirmation of spiritual/religious truths, which I am sure most would agree is inappropriate, and perhaps even futile. The search for scientific truth is best done using the scientific method, the search for historical truth is best conducted using the historical method, and the search for spiritual truth is best performed using the spiritual methods outlined in Alma 32 and Moroni 10. That’s my opinion, anyway.

  32. I think it has to be a literal account, as accurate as any recounting of history, in other to claim real value. Why? Because it says so itself.

    If Nephi, Mormon, Moroni were not real people, their stories can be useful from a situational perspective, to give us different approaches to life’s situations inasmuch as they mirror our lives, but they cannot be useful to teach us God’s nature, which is the purpose of scripture. If the Book of Mormon is a nice story to tell us what COULD happen, it could inspire intellectual development, but never faith.

    The Book of Mormon is not a cute intellectual exercise. It is documentation of real people who actually sacrificed their lives, giving us a foundation of faith upon which we can build the trust in the Lord necessary to perform our own sacrifice.

    So no, the Book of Mormon’s historicity is not necessary to found a church, come from God, or be generally useful to make people think or become better people. But it is necessary to forge a person into a true disciple of Christ, and a people into Zion.

  33. “I also just wanted to add that I personally am somewhat uncomfortable with the notion of seeking a spiritual confirmation of historical truths. “

    Why ?

    A lot of the historical stuff of the Old Testament is God’s dealings with the ancients. God hasn’t changed. We can look to those ancient happenings as to how God deals, wants to deal, or will deal with us.

    As far as the Old Testament record is accurate, the teachings are historical. Prophets really did teach those things, because God and angels actually told them to.

    I believe God’s *actions* (in both the Bible and BoM) towards men are also historical and necessarily so. What happened to those people can happen to us. Those are real life examples that we need to take to heart, both the good things and the bad things.

    The logical extension of “ancient scripture isn’t historical” is that *we* are the first people with whom God will have actual real-life interactions.

    Didn’t God interact with them? Preach to them through prohets? Pour out blessings and cursings? Protect them when they were obedient, and remove his protection and allow them to be conquered and taken captive when they weren’t?

    Though parts may be figurative as opposed to literal, with some poetic license thrown in, ancient scripture has to be historical.

  34. Jettboy: The Evs/Pents only use that against us and against any non-Christian relgion. It’s not something they use to get people who are agnostic/atheist or members of other mainstream Christian churches to convert to their church.

    The Evs/Pents’ claim is like most Protestants, in that they claim that their *interpretation* (though they usually call it a literal interpretation) of the Bible is “correct” or “True”.

    And in some ways, their interpretation is close to LDS theology, in regards to spiritual gifts, personal revelation, and how the Holy Ghost works.

    I don’t remember any archealogy stuff from my Ev days, nor do I recall hearing any more recently while flipping through the channels of TV preachers.

    There is also a faint parallel between the “sinner’s prayer” or “accepting Jesus” prayer, and Moroni’s challenge, in that the Evs say “Just say this prayer, and you’ll be saved!” If you sincerely “accept Jesus”, according to the Evs, you’re “saved.”

    Moroni wrote that if you pray sincerely to know the truth of the BoM, you’ll get an answer, and if you follow through on that answer, faith/repentance/baptism/gift-of-the-Holy-Ghost, all the way through enduring-to-the-end, well, that would be the LDS definition of salvation.

  35. I’m sure that there are already canonical terms in literary theory for what I’m going to say, but since I don’t know them, I’m making up my own.

    To my mind, there are three ways in which a supposedly historical narrative has value, and that at least two of those values hinge on the historicity of the narrative.

    1) Its “illustrative value.” This kind is mostly associated with parables, in which it is obvious that a literal understanding is not meant; no one cares if a merchant actually sold all he owned to buy a pearl, or if there was a beggar named Lazarus. Almost all scriptural accounts exhibit this value, in addition to or regardless of their other values.

    2) Its “demonstrative value.” This narrative shows that, because a certain pattern or occurrence happened before, it can happen again. (“Nephi had his prayers answered with a revelation of Christ, and thus it is possible for our prayers to be answered with revelation.”) There is little demonstrative value to a narrative if it is ahistorical, as a fictitious narrative cannot be considered to demonstrate the result of following the fictitious behavior.

    3) Its “consequential value.” This narrative contains historical events which have consequences for the present; if they did not happen, the consequences did not happen. Examples of this would be the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the restoration of the Priesthood by heavenly messengers.

    For two out of three of these kinds of value, whether an account is historical does determine how much value it holds. That is not an argument as to whether any given scriptural account is historical, but simply whether it MATTERS whether it is historical.

  36. Bookslinger, all that I meant was that I personally don’t believe that the best way to know about historical events is to pray about them. I’m always frustrated when I hear stories of missionaries who try to convert people by initially offering them the Book of Mormon as a means to discover more about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. In my opinion, if you want to learn more about ancient American civilisations, you should go read a textbook about ancient American civilisations.

    I wasn’t trying to suggest that “*we* are the first people with whom God will have actual real-life interactions”. I was merely trying to say that, in my personal opinion, the best way to ascertain whether or not the Book of Mormon is historical is not to pray about it. I know that that completely contradicts a lot of LDS epistemology, and most people on this blog will probably disagree with me. Moroni himself (if he was a real historical character) would probably disagree with me. But for me, the historicity of the Book of Mormon is a matter of historical fact. Thus (in my opinion), its truthfulness is best determined by appeal to the historic method.

    If we believe that all truth, including historical and scientific truth, can be determined by a spiritual witness, then why do we need reason at all? Why don’t we just pray for God to reveal all the intricacies of the perplexing problems of modern physics? Why is rational thought, the weighing up of empirical evidence, and the scientific method even required? I recognise that one could bring up the example of Abraham, who did indeed make scientific, astronomical discoveries through revelation rather than the scientific method, but personally I believe that truth is best discovered using different methods depending on what type of truth it is.

  37. in my personal opinion, the best way to ascertain whether or not the Book of Mormon is historical is not to pray about it. I know that that completely contradicts a lot of LDS epistemology, and most people on this blog will probably disagree with me.

    It not only contradicts “epistemology”, it contradicts the prophets and apostles.

    “Historical” and “true” are the same for the Book of Mormon. It can’t be true unless there really were Nephites and Lamanites, who were led by prophets and visited by Jesus.

    The history or historicity of the Book of Mormon isn’t about the type of steel used in the swords, or at what point horses disappeared from the continent, or what cureloms and cumoms really were, or what modern day land corresponds to Nephite-land and Lamanite-land. Those things would be fun “historical facts” to satisfy the curious. But, that’s not what the Book of Mormon is about, that’s not its purpose.

    Its purpose is to testify and convince people of Christ. But to do that, there had to have been Nephites and Lamanites, etc., etc. Otherwise, it is merely fiction.

    When seeking to know the truth of the Book of Mormon via a spiritual confirmation, I think the “as a whole package” approach needs to be taken. Moroni doesn’t suggest praying about the content item by item, or book by book. Is 1st Nephi true? Is 2nd Nephi true? Is the book of Alma true? Were there really swords? Were there really horses? That is _not_ what Moroni is asking us to ask!

    Is that something that the Lord would even want us to ask?

    Moroni begs us to ask if “these things” which strong implies “these things as a whole” are true.

    Those who want to make us think that the truth or history of the Book of Mormon depends on steel, horses, or geography are trying to distract us from the important parts.

    They, the critics, are trying to divide and conquer, to plant seeds of doubt about minutia for which the intervening 1400 years (Moroni to Joseph Smith) has swept away evidence.

    Heavenly Father has allowed, or even caused, the physical evidence to be swept away in the winds and ravages of time. “Physical proof that cannot be refuted” is not what He wants us to base our faith or beliefs or comittments on. He does not want a church based on that.

    If there weren’t Nephites and Lamanites, etc., then this whole LDS church thing is a sham. The prophets have said that since Joseph Smith’s day, and it was made crystal clear by Elder Holland in a recent general conference.

    If we believe that all truth, including historical and scientific truth, can be determined by a spiritual witness, then why do we need reason at all? Why don’t we just pray for God to reveal all the intricacies of the perplexing problems of modern physics? Why is rational thought, the weighing up of empirical evidence, and the scientific method even required?

    Either you’ve been bamboozled by the detractors and critics of the Book of Mormon, or else you’re purposely engaging in sophomoric reasoning there.

    You’re conflating things by throwing “all truth” in there. No one is asking you to confirm _all truth_ via prayer, just gospel truths, or that which is necessary to form the foundation for a belief in the restored gospel. No one is asking you to pray instead of going to university in order to provide for your family.

    Both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon have been _designed_ by God to require spiritual discernment and a spiritual witness. Neither one can or will be proven until after Christ returns and all things are revealed (as promised.)

    The essence of the gospel, which is the atonement and resurrection of Christ, cannot be proven outside of a spiritual confirmation. And most of the appendages to that – priesthood, gift of the Holy Ghost, miracles, prophets, etc. – can’t be physically or objectively proven either.

    If you think the BoM can be “true but not historical” you are under an assumption that cannot be logically maintained.

    I believe that the concept of “true but not historical” is an “intermediate lie”, that comes from Satan in order “gently lead” otherwise faithful believers out the door of the church.

    Satan can’t get people to believe big lies all at once, so he uses propaganda to feed it to mankind bit by bit. If you’re over 50 years old, you might remember how the slow slide in societal opinions about homosexuality has changed in the last 35 years. Bit by bit.

    Pleaes don’t fall for the “true but not historical” lie. Those who believe such might not have one foot out the door at the present, but they are inching in that direction.

  38. Bookslinger, your statement, “The essence of the gospel … cannot be proven outside of a spiritual confirmation.” is pretty much the same thing as arguing that the historicity of the BoM is independent of its truthfulness. IMO.

  39. Trevor: Huh? I don’t see that connection at all.

    The gospel was designed that way.

    It’s very likely that the Book of Mormon was designed that way too, such that Heavenly Father was even planning on the ravages of time, 1400 years, to erase any concrete proof.

    However, please don’t think there is no evidence. There are hundreds of pieces of evidence that lend plausibility of the Book of Mormon.

    One by one the critics’ “deal killers” and anachronisms have been explained away. Barley was eventually found. Horse statues were eventually found. Pallisades (breastworks of timbers) around cities were found.

    JeffLindsay.com has a nice overview of many of these evidences of plausibility and addresses many challenges point by point.

    There are also internal evidences in the Book of Mormon that point to ancient Hebrew origin, such as some names that were not known to be Hebrew until long after the book was published. The critics can only respond “lucky guess” to those.

    Other rejoinders (from the critics) to the many internal evidences devolve into claiming that Joseph Smith (and whatever helpers he had in concocting the book) had access to a vast international library while in the backwoods of New York and Pennsylvania.

  40. I’m real skeptical that God would deliberately hide or evidence in order to make it harder to believe. What’s the value in that, really?

    I mean, I’ve seen people claim that God assembled this world from chunks of other planets in order to give the appearance that it’s 4 billion years old and that evolution was the mechanism behind the proliferation of life, when in reality the Earth is 6000 years old. I just can’t buy that stuff because it seems deceptive.

    I think it’s hard enough as is to believe in a loving, interventionist God. What’s the point in arbitrarily stacking more obstacles in front of belief? I guess this is really a big digression from the post, but oh well.

  41. So, let me get this right. Its alright for God to allow the proliferation of a false history of Ancient America, and other things in the Bible, where lack of evidence can destroy faith without giving away its all “allegory” or “Metaphor.” Yet, you can’t buy that God would keep evidence hidden about what really happened as that is deceptive. Its enough to make your head spin.

  42. Well, you might be justified in having your head spin if I were actually married to a metaphorical-BoM-masquerading-as-a-historical-BoM. But I’m not. I’m not particularly interested in passionately affirming any explanation at all, at the moment, because none seem overwhelmingly convincing.

    You can accuse me of trying to have my cake and eat it to, or fence-sitting, or whatever, but I am simply trying to stay true to my understanding of where the data point. Which, to bring this full circle, still has nothing to do with my belief in Mormon theology. ;)

  43. I would comment on this interesting topic but that would be a violation of the guest-host policy here.

  44. Understood and accepted Trevor. It still stands for those who do hold to it like you described.

  45. Trevor:

    “I’m real skeptical that God would deliberately hide or evidence in order to make it harder to believe. What’s the value in that, really?”

    Um, that’s God’s pattern throughout the Bible and since then. Very few people in Bible times got proof, and those that did were severely punished for any further disobedience, because they would then be sinning against the light, because then they would have known better.

    The standard LDS answer to “why hide evidence” is to learn and develop and test faith. It is so people can learn how to listen and obey the Holy Ghost. God works by faith and by his word, and by the power and influence of the Holy Ghost, not by forcing people to believe by offering physical evidences and proofs.

    Therefore there may be evidences (there are hundreds of archaelogical “evidences” of the Book of Mormon, but no slam dunk “proof”), but there can be no proof until we learn to walk by faith and by the light of the Holy Ghost.

    Proof, or incontrovertible evidence, doesn’t exist for any religion, or any denomination. There’s no proof of Adam and Eve. There’s no proof of the flood. There’s no proof of the Atonement. There’s no proof of Buddha’s teachings. There’s no proof of Muhammed’s teachigns. There’s no proof of the resurrection of Jesus, except some ancient copies of copies of copies of testimony of people who _said_ they saw the resurrected Jesus. And there is no chain-of-possession of those records/copies, so, they could have been forged way before the first copies were made, for as much as we know.

    Faith is always required in matters of relgion.

    Trevor, are you an active LDS person? Or did you grow up in the LDS church? Your questions don’t strike me as coming from someone who is familiar with basic LDS teachings. The obvious answers or rejoinders to your comments are pretty much what we call “Sunday School answers.”

  46. Pingback: Juvenile Instructor » Max and Amanda discuss the Book of Mormon, Historicity, and Mormon Studies

  47. In response to the Juvenile Instructor discussion:

    “To be fair to the context of my post, I am dealing with believing or practicing Mormons and not academia. How a non-Mormon wants to approach the subject is of not much concern to me. As was said by Kevin, ‘It’s no secreat that almost universally non-LDS scholars are going to see the BoM as a 19th century pseudepigraphon. There is no shame in that, and personally I wouldn’t expect anything else.’ If they thought it was historical, then by logic they would have to believe in some form of Mormonism.

    My argument is that if a Mormon believes in the historical Divinity of Jesus Christ (that he suffered for the sins of the world, was crucified and resurrected from the dead) then the Book of Mormon’s narrative must also be taken as historical. How historical? At least to the degree that the Old and New Testaments are for a believer. The full power of the Book of Mormon can only be taken in that context without serious twisting and corruption of its core messages. I suppose non-Mormons who are doing a cultural examination of the book on believers might want to take that in mind as well if so inclined.”

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