Tina, on the post “Seeking for evidence” asked today:
Please give me the name of one renowned historian who takes the Book of Mormon serious.
Tina, I appreciate your question. I have your answer. Before I share it, I think it’s important to note why so many ask this question.
The Book of Mormon presents a serious challenge to orthodox Christianity. It is said to be another witness of Jesus Christ, a record of His dealings with the Ancient American inhabitants. If scripture, it provides clarity to the bible in ways which create occasional, but important contradictions to the traditions and beliefs that have evolved over the centuries by all other Christian denominations.
If the Book of Mormon is true, then not only does it call into question the beliefs of so many, but it has eternal implications for you, and calls for meaningful, but difficult changes to your life.
As such, it would be much easier if we could simply dismiss it, rather than undertake the spiritual responsibility of studying it ourselves, and asking God if it is true. That makes us vulnerable, and we all prefer to have our beliefs validated, and not challenged.
If it could simply be dismissed, that would be so much easier. If we could just say “there is insufficient archeological evidence to support such claims” then we give ourselves reason to move on. And so rather than seek the answer from God, we seek answers from men, from science. We say “give me evidence, give me proof”, even when we know that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Indeed, faith is the evidence, not things we can see.
Still, we want a sign, and archeology is the easiest, and often the first place to turn. Why? Because we’ve been raised under the misconception that the Americas don’t have the archeological evidence to support the massive amounts of people, or the advanced technology as recorded in the Book of Mormon.
Indeed, even today, textbooks teach that pre-Columbian America was largely uninhabited. But as we continuously find throughout all the sciences, things previously accepted as facts (like a flat world), end up not being factual at all.
While there are numerous new findings (archeological, anthropological, and otherwise) that I could recount (and will at some point), perhaps the single best source I could refer you to is a new book, recently published, and that is now a National Bestseller. It’s called “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann. Coincidentally, Mann is not LDS, and didn’t intend to validate the Book of Mormon with his work, even though that’s precisely what he did.
The Washington Post said “1491 vividly compels us to re-examine how we teach the ancient history of the Americas…” The book explains that contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled, but were here in huge numbers, larger even than any contemporary European city. That the people shaped the earth around them, had immaculately clean streets, running water, and were even the first to genetically engineer crops. But for decades, archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others have been bringing forward a different story. 1491 brings it all together in one read.
One interesting revelation brought by these scientists, is the realization that rather than the first Americans having come over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C, but rather that they came by boat. Interestingly, that’s just how the Book of Mormon describes it.
Another interesting revelation is that the reason early European visitors found an empty landscape, was not because they’d found the natural, unchanging state of native America, but rather the end product of a vast society decimated by wars and epidemics – perhaps the greatest in human history. Again, remarkably, that’s just how the Book of Mormon explains it.
Mann describes discovering gigantic ancient cities, with huge, 14 foot walls thrown up as fortifications. Again, just how the Book of Mormon describes Moroni’s fortifications of the Nephite cities.
It was believed that the Inca, for instance, fell to Pizarro because they had no metallurgy. But these findings clearly show that they actually had a highly refined metallurgy, just as the Book of Mormon states.
About the book, “Publishers Weekly” stated that “Mann also shows that the Maya constructed huge cities and governed them with a cohesive set of political ideals. Most notably, according to Mann, the Haudenosaunee, in what is now the Northeast U.S., constructed a loose confederation of tribes governed by the principles of individual liberty and social equality.” Again, that’s just how the Book of Mormon describes the creation of the Nephite nation, and Moroni’s “standard of liberty” which united the cities, even placing them in the right area.
So while it would be convenient to dismiss the Book of Mormon based on the old, uninformed notion that there isn’t sufficient archeological evidence to validate its claims, in fact, the opposite is true.
So true in fact, that the new evidence not only validates the description of early America as recorded in the Book of Mormon, but validates the prophetic nature of the Joseph Smith. For it must be remembered that we’re talking about a book written by Joseph Smith (actually translated from ancient plates) hundreds of years ago. Long before any of this evidence was to surface, at a time when such writings were in stark contrast to current beliefs. But here we are, hundreds of years later, finding detailed evidence validating that work.
It’s been surprising to many.
Publishers Weekly further commented about the book: “In a riveting and fast-paced history, massing archeological, anthropological, scientific and literary evidence, Mann debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-Columbian America. Reviewing the latest, not widely reported research in Indean demography, origins and ecology, Mann zestfully demonstrates that long before any European explorers set foot in the New World, native American cultures were flourishing with a high degree of sophistication. The new researchers have turned received wisdom on its head.”
I’ll be posting additional similarities illustrated in the Book (and elsewhere) to further eliminate this “easy out”, but if you prefer not to wait, here’s the link to it on Amazon.
Most importantly, however, are two simply points. The first is the principle that we should not require the validation of science (or signs) to substantiate our faith. It’s sure nice when it does, but true faith needs no such validation. Second, having removed the easy dismissal of the Book of Mormon, it is upon each of us to then undertake the spiritual responsibility to consider the work for ourselves. To study, and read it for ourselves. And then to ask God, for ourselves, if it is not true. It’s simply too important not to.
Indeed, “if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). The Book of Mormon itself contains a promise.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things be not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)
P.S. for more information about the Book of Mormon, or to request a copy, click here.
See also “Discussing an open canon” for coverage and discussions about the common misconception that the canon of scripture is closed.