The Book of Mormon: True or False?

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.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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308 Responses to The Book of Mormon: True or False?

  1. mobaby says:

    Vook,

    The problem with Mormon tradition concerning the multiplicity of gods is that the Bible repeatedly affirms there is only one God and we are to worship no other gods. Jesus was worshiped in the Bible – Thomas being one example (my Lord and MY GOD). I don’t for a second believe he was incorrect to worship Jesus nor was Thomas uttering an exclamation taking the Lord’s name in vain, otherwise Jesus would have corrected him. If Jesus is a separate god from the Father, Thomas is worshiping 2 gods at that point according to Mormon tradition, and yet the sinless perfect Christ Jesus did not correct him.

    There is a solution – the trinity. Jesus is God, God the Father is God, the Holy Spirit is God – One God, 3 Eternal Persons as revealed in scripture. Jesus being a separate God breaks down when one examines the instances where He was worshiped and accepted that worship. If Mormon tradition were true, all those whose worshiped the sinless Christ would be breaking the commandment of God to worship no others gods besides him – and yet Jesus accepted that worship as true and right. According to Mormon tradition are we only to worship God the Father, and NOT follow the pattern of the New Testament and worship the risen Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus is worthy of our worship, for He directly took the name of God when He said “Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jehovah, Yahweh, the Great I AM. Jesus was the very God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. And it’s not just me saying that – Jesus said it Himself.

  2. amanda says:

    So ironically, on matters of spirituality, I am unable to use my testimony to certify the Book of Mormon–

    [Snipped, along with the deletion of several following comments taking the thread off topic. Amanda, please read the original post again. This thread is about evidences for the Book of Mormon that fall outside the LDS testimony. It is not about whether the LDS testimony is true or false, or admissible or not, or valid or not. It is simply not the topic of discussion. That is one of the ground rules for participating on this thread. Whether you choose to participate is up to you, but if you do, please follow the rules. Thanks.]

  3. Lautensack says:

    Vook: You are still engaging in equivocation to infer that my usage of Being is incorrect or incoherent, despite the evidence that my usage of the term Being is not only valid but that yours was not even a valid usage until the “enlightenment.” As to the claim that τον θεον and ο λογος have different natures please support this from the text. The Only portion of the text which speaks of the Nature of either is clause C. “And the Word was Deity”, are you saying that τον θεον of clause two is not Deity?

    I must ask who you believe τον θεον in clause B is; since according to your standards it can’t be the Father however if we apply that then ο λογος cannot be Jesus since we don’t discover that until later in the text. Also who is the one asserting that Being and person are synonymous, a concept not arrived at until the enlightenment? It is not I, I do not see the text stating that. Again NO one is debating that τον θεον and ο λογος are distinct persons in eternal relationships, again it seems you are arguing against Sabellianism, in which I will join you in to the uttermost. However it is only when you go beyond the text, importing enlightenment thinking that we disagree. No one is speaking of “emanations from a root “god”. Again it seems you are confusing the “what” and the “who’s” an egregious error.

    I must once again ask if you are sure that you understand the Trinity, because from your own statements it appears you do not. The doctrine of the Trinity is that there is one eternal being of God, indivisible, infinite. This one being of God is shared by three co-equal, co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. John 1:1-3 agrees with this to the uttermost.

    Amanda,
    Sharron rightly assumed that all Mormon posters on this site would have a testimony, thus that fact is taken as a given, she was looking for other evidence. No one here is denying your testimony, we are simply looking for anything else you have to offer.

    Lautensack

  4. Vook says:

    Laut,
    The nature of the use of “pros” (with, in communion with) defines they are distinct beings. The definition of a qualitative meaning is they belong to the same class of beings.
    Your redefinition of ‘pros’ would force us to understand something which identical expressions don’t innovate: Matt 13:56, Mark 6:3; 9:19; 14:49; Luke 9:41; John 1:2; Gal 4:18; 1Th 3:4; 2Th 2:5; 3:10; 1Jn 1:2. Honestly, there are too many to list. 674 times “pros” is used, and never, not once, is it used to express some distinction between personhood and being.

    To recap, “pros” means “by, at near…be (in company) with someone” used in this construction, according to BDAG, 3rd edition, page 875. The Word and The God are two beings according to the text. There was no Trinity formulated or visible in the Bible when this was written. So the burden of proof is to show why words mean something different.

    You continue to try to apply the Trinity to this passage. That dog don’t hunt. It doesn’t say the Word was “pros” with the Father. It says he was “pros” with God, and that he himself also belongs to the class of beings called “god”. If there are three persons sharing the essence of one God without dividing it, how is the Word “near,at or with” God? Or do we take the illogical position a thing can be next to itself?

    This again is why your attempt to turn this Trinitarian utterly fails. 1b says the Word is near, at or by “the God”. 1c says “the Word” also belongs to the class of beings described as “god”. John 1:2 says this same “Word belonging to the class of beings called “god””, since he uses a pronoun to reflect back on the Word from 1c, was in the beginning with the God.

    These two verses define in the Bible the existence of two Gods. John clarifies that even though Jesus was in the Beginning, and divine, he was in the beginning with “The God”.

  5. Lautensack says:

    Vook, yet again you engage in equivocation of Being and person, even after I have provided information that would state such thinking is a product of the enlightenment. If you insist on inserting enlightenment thinking into your exegesis then who am I to stop you? However when you assert such thinking is the standard for true biblical reading I must insist it is not so.

    It is becoming more and more evident that you do not care for Truth and are trying to argue against points that no one has made to allow your position to seem as though it were valid. Trinitarianism affirms that ο λογος and τον θεον are eternally in relationship as John 1:1 states. Also if you assert that the first use of θεος in John 1:1 is not the Father then whom do you suggest it is? There are very few cases where θεος does not refer to God the Father in the 83 times John uses θεος in his Gospel. Those being, John 1:1c, John 1:18 (second occurrence), John 10:34-35 (due to plurality), John 20:28 (addressed to Jesus). It seems very clear that (o) θεος not being a reference for the Father is the exception not the rule when reading John. You can disagree with this conclusion but if you do I ask that you provide a reason for such as well as whom τον θεον is referring to in John 1:1b.

    You argue that I redefine προς. Where? I have said from the beginning of this conversation (November 6) that προς meant with, in an intimate and relational sense. Thus that “the Word had an eternal face to face, that is intimate relationship with God, of a the highest level.” I am only distinguishing between the use of θεος in clause B and C, the first usage is a Person, who due to evidence in John’s writings is the Father, the second as the qualitative nature of ο λογος. No Trinitarian denies this, again I think you are arguing against an argument no one here has made.

    …continued…

  6. Lautensack says:

    You also seem to think that qualitative means something belonging to the “same class of beings” at least according to the dictionary. However The Oxford English Dictionary does not describe it as such. Nor does it ascribe such terms to the word Quality.

    Finally you have contradicted yourself, you first say that John 1:2 describes a relationship, your argument of προς, (to which Trinitarians agree) then you go on later to give a horrific translation: “Word belonging to the class of beings called “god”” I am not sure how one could get there from “ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον”.

    Your entire argument rests upon the use of equivocation and a failure to understand the doctrine of the Trinity. As such you do not actually deal with the information I have provided.

    I suggest two books on the subject, Beyond the Basics of Greek Grammar by Dr. Daniel B. Wallace and Jesus As God: The New Testament use of Theos in Reference to Jesus by Dr. Murray J. Harris, both contain scholarly Greek examinations of John 1:1, (pg 256-70 and 51-71 respectively), and both come to the conclusions that I have provided thus far.

    Lautensack

  7. Vook says:

    mobaby,
    The assumption the Bible is Trinitarian and monotheistic is just not supported historically or Biblically. As I pointed out previously, citing sources, the Hebrews believed there were multiple, real gods. They did not worship them, per the 10 commandments, but they believed they existed. Deut 32:8-9 make it clear they had a belief in regional deities as sort of guardian angels. The passage was changed by the post-Christianity Jews to try to reflect a monotheism not originally there. Fortunately, the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed what the Greek Septuagint had always taught: There are additional divine beings.

    I think the biggest problem is Evangelicals don’t understand the Biblical teaching of the exaltation of mankind as salvation.

    BTW, in Ps 97:7,9 if there are not real other gods, how do they fulfill the command to worship the LORD?

    Also, the “proskuneo”, worship, which Jesus received is not necessarily that afforded to a deity. A great book called “Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament”, by Jason BeDuhn would be very helpful to you.

    Last point on this whole John 1:1 thing, by a native Greek reader trained in Biblical linguistics, commenting on John 1:1c “and the Word was a god”:

    “Trinitarians in Greece have never used this specific verse to claim that the New World Translation (NW) is wrong, since all the Orthodox versions read actually the same with the greek version of the NW. And this happens because the wording of this verse is very clear for the Greek reader, and there is no place for debate. I am sorry to say this, but for a Greek it is rediculus to debate on John 1:1.” Here is the link: http://classicbst.crosswalk.com/Lexicons/NewTestamentGreek/grk.cgi?search=4314&version=kjv&type=str&submit=Find He might be faking it, but he sounds authentic.

  8. amanda says:

    Oh that’s right. Cut out the most important and penetrating proof there is-

    I’m not sure I understand the purpose of this post. If this is just for people who want to compare religious scholarly notes- then I’ll contribute on another topic because nothing sounds more boring.

    I am not offended however, that my previous well thought-out post was removed- I have no problem with staying on topic- I could make a compelling case for my post being completely relevant to the parameters set by the author. But I’m not going to beat a dead horse.

    (yawn)

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