This article is in response to Dennis Tilly’s “Column: Religious book seems to be fiction,” (Aug. 17 Viewpoints). In this column, Dennis mentions that he purchased a Book of Mormon and two books written by Mormon critics. Many of the arguments which he makes are very understandable since he has relied upon the critics of Mormonism. A couple of sources that I recommend as alternative points of view are: http://lds.org (and mormon.org), http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/ and http://fairlds.org.
Dennis has stated, “The problem with Smith’s New World history is that there are absolutely no archaeological artifacts of Israelite tribes in the New World.”
I shall indicate what I believe are some of the evidences of the Book of Mormon and the divine calling of Joseph Smith. We should remember that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Shall we reject the Bible because some biblical narratives such as the Israelite presence in Egypt can’t be confirmed at this time?
I think that for Mormons as well as for other Christians, the primary source of gospel conviction or knowing the things of the spirit should be the prompting of the Holy Spirit, i.e. the Spirit of Truth bearing witness to our spirit that what we have read or heard is true. This is how the apostles such as Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ. This is not so say that archaeology and other knowledge are not important, but we should recognize their limitations. For one, they can’t answer the important questions of life such as why are we here?, or whether or not Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
I wish that I had the time to address one by one the issues that you have raised. You have stated, “I hope some reader will do their own factual research and if they disagree with my statements, please submit a column to the Democrat.” I thank you for this opportunity. I could probably provide better examples to share with you but these are some of the items that immediately come to mind.
Some of the evidences for Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon include the following:
1. In the front of every Book of Mormon is the “Testimony of the Three Witnesses” and the “Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.” The three witnesses had a spiritual witness in which they were shown the golden plates by an angel of God. The eight witnesses had a “physical” witness in which they were shown the golden plates by Joseph Smith but no angel was present. Even though some of these witness left the church and had opportunities to deny their testimony, never did they deny their testimonies as recorded in the front of the Book of Mormon.
2. Joseph Smith was a farm boy with very little formal education. The sheer speed in which he translated the book (approximately two months), the fact that Joseph never went back to correct it, and the internal consistency of the book is a miracle in itself. His wife, knowing of his lack of education and writing abilities, testified that Joseph could not have written such a book unless by divine power.
3. Joseph Smith taught that the “golden” plates (from which the Book of Mormon was translated) were buried in a stone box in a hill. At the time of Joseph Smith, both the idea of ancient writings on metal plates and records being preserved in stone boxes were considered ridiculous. However, we now have many examples of ancient metal writings and stone boxes.
4. Barley is mentioned several times in the Book of Mormon. One criticism has been that barley never grew in the New World until the white man brought it here. However, the December 1983 issues of Science83 reported the discovery in Arizona of what appears to be domesticated pre-columbian barley. In addition, biologist Howard Stutz has indicated that three types of wild barley have long been known to be native to the Americas.
5. Chiasmus is a poetical form used by many Near East languages. Chiasmus uses inverted parallelism. This poetical form wasn’t properly understood and acknowledged until the 1960’s. Complex chiasmus has recently been discovered in the Book of Mormon. Did Joseph translate records of a people that migrated from the Near East or did this farm boy with little formal education just happen to add these Near East poetical structures into the Book of Mormon?
6. Alma 7:10 (in the BofM) states that Jesus Christ “shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers.” Critics would claim this is an obvious error, since everyone knows that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. With the recent discovery of the Amarna letters, there is now a reference to Bethlehem as being in the land of Jerusalem, just as the Book of Mormon says.
7. The name of Alma refers to two prominent men in the Book of Mormon. Some have argued the Alma is not an ancient Semitic man’s name but a Latin woman’s name. So did Joseph make a mistake? Recently an interesting discovery was made by Yigael Yadin, probably the most prominent Israeli archaeologist in this century. While investigating a cave near the Dead Sea, he found a document which bore the name of Alma son of Judah.
How did Joseph with so little education happen to get so many things which we know today are correct?
Time does not permit me to discuss other evidences of the Book of Mormon or the issue of DNA. Nor do I believe that presenting evidence after evidence will prove either that the Bible or the Book of Mormon is true. There are many items in the Bible as well as the Book of Mormon that can’t be “proven” at this time. Perhaps they never will. Perhaps it is by divine purpose the God presents just enough evidence to support but not enough evidence to “prove” that Bible or Book of Mormon is true so that man will trust in the Lord and His Holy spirit rather than the “arm of flesh.” Moroni 10:4-5 provides a test whereby one can know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and of all things.
Neil Newbold is a resident of West Jordan, Utah, and reads the Weatherford Democrat online.