The Book of Mormon tells the story of the complete annihilation and destruction of one of the many ancient civilizations of the Americas. Latter-day Saints believe the events contained in the book actually happened. So oftentimes the first thing people ask when we talk about The Book of Mormon is, naturally, where’s the archaeological evidence?!
That’s a tough question. One Book of Mormon civilization was utterly destroyed, and the other one was in a state of civil war by the end of the book. Obviously, we haven’t found a rock with the words “Mormon wuz here” carved into it yet, but there have been plenty of findings worth mentioning.
For example, The Book of Mormon story begins in the Middle East. Researchers there have found evidence of the location called Nahom at the beginning of The Book of Mormon, as well as evidence for the land Bountiful. Bountiful was an oasis described as having fresh water, a mountain, metal ore, trees, fruit, and honey. Such a place does exist. Did Joseph Smith just get lucky?
In terms of evidence from this side of the world, the Americas, there are a few unique challenges. We’re no longer in the arid Middle East where it never rains and nothing grows. It wasn’t until 2018 that researchers discovered tens of thousands of structures under the jungle vegetation in the Mayan reserve in Guatemala. A huge megalopolis had been right under their noses for hundreds of years, and now they’re re-thinking everything they thought they knew about that civilization. Now there’s evidence of raised highways, domesticated animals, advanced warfare and defense systems. Coincidentally, The Book of Mormon talks about each of those things. I’m not saying the Mayans were Nephites or Lamanites, but I am saying that it would be unwise of us to assume we’ve discovered everything there is to discover. That is far from the truth.
Some critics attempt to disprove The Book of Mormon because of supposed anachronisms in the text, or things the book mentions that, as far as we know, didn’t exist at that time or in that part of the world. Things in The Book of Mormon like the use of cement, the existence of steel, sheep, goats, cattle, horses, silk, and several other things. Over time, research has either challenged or debunked all of those claims, and I’m confident that as time goes on, those that haven’t been challenged will be. Just gotta be patient.
That said, textual evidence supporting the authenticity of The Book of Mormon really is remarkable. Some of the most interesting factoids have to do with Hebraisms.
If the Book of Mormon was written in a variation of Hebrew, you’d expect some of those unique Hebraisms to show up in the English translation. And guess what? They do. There’s chiasmus, prophetic lament, possessive nouns, if-and conditionals, Hebrew idioms and phraseology, and dozens of other terms that’ll make you sound smart at social gatherings. Check out the links in the description and just dip your toes into this stuff. There’s no way Joseph is making this stuff up and if he is, part of me is just like …
And we haven’t even mentioned the book’s complexity. More than 150 named geographically consistent locations, effective monetary system, realistic ancient battle scenarios, legitimate legal cases, and plenty of other elements that are sewn together seamlessly throughout the book. Also, repeated stylometric analysis strongly suggests that the book, as it claims, was written by multiple authors, each with their own unique writing style.
Now take all of that and so much more, and ask yourself. How did an uneducated farmer in his early twenties dictate this 531-page book in front of witnesses, with no notes or reference material, without substantial revisions, for hours on end with his face in a hat, in about 74 working days? Even the people who believe it’s all a lie can’t agree on how Joseph did it.
But at the end of the day, just like any other religion, we can’t scientifically prove that everything in The Book of Mormon actually happened, in much the same way the rest of Christianity can’t prove that Moses split the Red Sea, or that Noah built an ark, or that Christ was resurrected. Without deferring to the circular argument, “the Bible is true because the Bible says so,” how do we know that the Bible isn’t just historical fiction? We don’t even know who wrote a lot of the Bible. Ultimately, religious people take some things on faith, and that’s fine!
Thankfully, what Christ asks of us is faith. Every Christian religion is ultimately built on faith founded in the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.
If evidence is what matters to you, then there’s ample evidence available for reasonable people to believe in The Book of Mormon, or not. But good people can disagree. Same is true for the Bible. But, as always, we invite those seeking to learn, to read The Book of Mormon, ponder and think about what you’ve read, and then ask God in the name of Christ if it is what it claims to be. Ultimately we believe a testimony of scripture, whether The Book of Mormon or the Bible, should come from God.
Check out the links below. There are hours and hours of research there for you. But whether or not you want to learn more, whether or not you believe the same way I do, have a great day!
- More on stylometric analysis research: https://bit.ly/2CGPojE
- Video on The Book of Mormon’s complexity: https://bit.ly/2OXlA7B
- Video on The Book of Mormon’s Hebraisms: https://bit.ly/2VpkuDW
- Video on translation evidence: https://bit.ly/2G7W4JJ
- Video on the authenticity of names in The Book of Mormon: https://bit.ly/2YYlp0b
- More on the land Bountiful: https://bit.ly/2OYoB7x
- More on Nahom in The Book of Mormon: https://bit.ly/2I5W0fP
- More on the historicity of The Book of Mormon: https://bit.ly/2I5WnXL
- More on anachronisms: https://bit.ly/2Kxj6OL
- More on the Mayan “Megalopolis” discovery: https://bit.ly/2rXOGvJ
- Horses in America before the Spanish arrived