For the past few weeks I’ve addressed the current limitations of New World archaeology and the naïve claims of some critics regarding the relationship between the Book of Mormon and archaeological discoveries. I have pointed out that there is a dearth of information regarding New World cultures during Book of Mormon times, that many cultural and religious aspects of these cultures rely heavily on interpretation of the data, and that names of some ancient cities and personalities may be forever lost.
I noted these cautions not because I don’t believe there is archaeological or anthropological evidence in favor of the Book of Mormon or in an effort to denigrate science, but because the topic needs to be approached with the best scientific rigor possible and not from a position of naïve misconception.
I readily acknowledge (and have done so repeatedly in this series) that there is no overwhelming persuasive secular evidence that would convince non-believers that the Book of Mormon is true (I’ve shared some of my reasons why this is so in a past installment). I also readily acknowledge that, thus far, I have not addressed all of the archaeological “problems” that seem to conflict with the belief in a historic Book of Mormon. For those who want answers to all the questions, I can only say, "patience."
In the next installments, I plan to discuss some of the fascinating ways in which the Book of Mormon correctly converges with what we now know about the ancient cultures from which it claims to have been written and derived. In other words, I plan on discussing some of the evidences that support the ancient historicity of the Book of Mormon.
While lately this series has been discussing the New World and the Book of Mormon, I’d like to remind the reader (or inform those readers who are unaware) that earlier parts of this series discussed some of the Old World evidences that support the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
In past issues, I pointed out that Joseph Smith got the details right regarding ancient Arabia in a time when there was a lack of information or out-right misconceptions about the land through which the Lehites traveled. I showed that several Book of Mormon names were very much at home in the ancient Near East, and that Lehi’s vision to flee Jerusalem (and the subsequent exodus) fit ancient patterns that were unknown to scholars in Joseph’s day.
Several of my articles showed that the landscape — as described in the Book of Mormon — accurately depicts the geography and climate of the lands through which they would have traveled, and that contrary to descriptions of the Arabian Peninsula in Joseph’s day, there really is an area on the Dhofar region that matches the Bountiful described in Lehi's journey.
I showed that the story of their ship, the Liahona, the slaying of Laban and Lehi’s dream of the Tree of Life, all have fascinating ancient Old World parallels that closely match the descriptions and contexts given in Book of Mormon.
I noted the discovery of an actual place known as “NHM” — a striking parallel to the Book of Mormon “Nahom” — that fits the Nephite scripture like a glove in regards to location, era, resource as a burial spot, as well as it’s juxtaposition to an eastward turn in the Lehite’s journey which, in turn, lead to another amazing parallel to the location and description of Bountiful.
As noted in the past few weeks, an inscription, text or icon of a place name is a coveted find for an archaeologist who is attempting to identify the designation of an ancient site. The discovery of "NHM" is nearly as close as it gets. While critics attempt to brush this find aside, it neatly fits the very type of discovery upon which archaeologists rely for toponym (place name) identification.
While the interpretation of historical and archaeological data will forever be the topic of debates among academics, it’s little wonder that we are asked to seek spiritual confirmation — the sure word of the Lord — in matters of the spirit. How sad it would be to reject the restored gospel because of secular finds that could be proven invalid or false in the future. How sad for those who left the LDS Church when some critics claimed that DNA studies proved the Book of Mormon to be fictitious only to find that the most current DNA studies demonstrate that DNA strands can, and do, disappear and therefore do not disprove the Book of Mormon.
As my articles have demonstrated — and will continue to do so — there are a number of fascinating secular evidences that support belief in an ancient Book of Mormon. Like much of the evidence in mainstream science, physics, law, history and archaeology, there is no single overwhelming evidence that conclusively proves the Book of Mormon. Instead, as in other disciplines, the Book of Mormon is supported by many interconnected pieces of evidence.