At the request of our Mormon friends here at Mormon Coffee, today’s topic for discussion is, The Book of Mormon: True or False? Before the discussion starts, however, I need to lay down some ground rules.
- It is understood by all here that Mormons ultimately believe the Book of Mormon is true due to personal revelation. For this discussion, possession of LDS testimonies will be assumed. Therefore, the bearing of these testimonies in the following comments is not permitted.
- When making evidentiary statements of fact, please provide supporting source references.
- Please dialog here in your own words; do not fill your comments with lengthy quotes from others.
- Remember (and follow) the Mormon Coffee comment policy that calls for the summation of main points (in your own words) before linking to another source.
On a recent Mormon Coffee thread, after being asked about external evidence supporting the Book of Mormon, an LDS commenter wrote:
“[Y]ou said, ‘What is the most compelling piece if archeological evidence that proves to you that the Book of Mormon is true?’ I will responde with, ‘Oh you of little faith’. If we needed scientific/archeological proof to mandate and coincide our beliefs, we would be cast into the same category as the pharisees and saducees.”
That opinion notwithstanding, this discussion will focus on evidence outside of testimony for the Book of Mormon. Another Latter-day Saint who participates in the conversations at Mormon Coffee has made this argument (taken from a few different comments of his):
“[T]he question of the Book of Mormon is absolutely black and white- it is either what it claims to be, or it is not. If it is not what it claims, the whole religion falls. If it is true, the church stands as THE Church of Christ.”
“If it [the Book of Mormon] is true (an ancient record of scripture), JS was a prophet. If he was a prophet, the church is what it claims to be, etc., etc.”
“Your claim that there is no evidence for the BOM is certainly persistent. I await the thread that allows us to discuss the book straight up….the whole of the LDS church depends on the Book of Mormon being true- every claim depends on it, so I would think that would be a natural center of debate.”
Okay. To get us started, Michael Coe, Yale University’s renowned Professor of Anthropology emeritus, was interviewed for PBS’s Frontline program The Mormons. After describing some of the major problems facing Mormon archeologists who are seeking to find evidence that the Book of Mormon is true, Dr. Coe said,
“I don’t really know how my friends that are Mormon archaeologists cope with this non-evidence, the fact that the evidence really hasn’t shown up — how they make the jump from the data to faith or from faith back to the data, because the data and the faith are two different worlds. There’s simply no way to bring them together. …”
Apart from personal revelation, how do the readers of Mormon Coffee (both Mormons and non-Mormons) cope with the “non-evidence” spoken of by Dr. Coe?
For an interesting look at issues surrounding the historicity of the Book of Mormon see the Sunstone article, “Mapping Book of Mormon Historicity Debates – Part 1, A Guide for the Overwhelmed,” by John-Charles Duffy.