Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: True scholarship vs. wishful thinking

Published: Monday, Jan. 31 2011 5:30 a.m. MST

An ancient American book by now-deceased author Thomas Stuart Ferguson exhibited the uninformed exuberance that caused him to naively misinterpret the data. Ferguson’s zeal and untrained approach caused him to make unwarranted assumptions that eventually damaged his testimony (more on this in a later issue).

Books by Dewey Farnsworth and the popular Jack West books and firesides all claimed to offer ancient Mesoamerican “proof” for the Book of Mormon, but they relied heavily on misinformation, logical inconsistencies and misrepresentation. Like some of the proponents of other Book of Mormon models, they may have done more harm than good.

As LDS anthropologist John L. Sorenson complained, such a naive approach suggests that “the underlying complexity and subtlety of the Book of Mormon are masked by a pseudo-scholarship to which everything is simple. This … encourages critics … to set up a straw-man Book of Mormon, to attack based on what Mormons have said about it instead of what it says itself.”

The case for the Book of Mormon as an authentic ancient text should only be supported by rigorous scholarship and not by wishful thinking and the misuse of scholarly data.

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