Sunday, September 28, 2008

Some Final Thoughts and Conclusions

I have spent the last few days looking over and assessing the validity of the claims of Matt Slick against the Book of Mormon. After reading and re-reading his materials, looking up his references and cross checking his citations, I have found Slick to be highly wanting in many areas. He not only mis-contextualizes and misuses the Book of Mormon text to suit his agenda but he makes bald faced assertions that just do not hold up to the evidence. He regularly employs double standards and other logical fallacies and conveniently ignores any evidence contrary to his arguments. In short, Slick is not a reliable source to turn to when it comes to analyzing the historicity of the Book of Mormon and whether or not it comes from God.

But so what? Why does this matter? Why did I even bother to address Slick's claims? 

I did so not to convince Slick or try to persuade him to abandon his belief that the Book of Mormon not only is not historical but also not of God, nor to impress any of the critics of the Book of Mormon in general. He and his like minded critics have shut the door to the possibility that the Book of Mormon is historical and of God, and thus it would be a waste of my time to try and convince him. No, I did this to help those who may have encountered Slick's material and need another perspective on these issues and a rejoinder to the critics. I did this so that those who are investigating the Book of Mormon can know for themselves that there are answers out there to the allegations of the critics. We Latter-day Saints are not hiding our heads in the sand and unwilling to critically examine the evidence and our faith. We are not blindly following the General Authorities of the Church or refusing to engage in criticisms of the Book of Mormon and the Restoration. We are doing the research, looking at the claims, examining the evidence and weighing it against the claims of the critics. And I am personally happy to report that, for the most part, the criticisms of the Book of Mormon do not hold any weight after careful analysis. 

Now this does not mean that all of the questions have been answered or that the controversy has been settled. There still remain questions as to some of the points of Book of Mormon historicity. I myself still have questions about the Book of Mormon and some of the claims therein. However, I can fully affirm that the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be; and ancient document with Near Eastern and Mesoamerican roots written by inspired Prophets of God. Even though I still have questions, that does not mean that I do not have a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As John L. Lund has recently pointed out, we should not lose faith in what we do know because of things we do not know[1]. In other words, just because there remain questions about the Book of Mormon this should not disparage anyone or shake their faith.

Finally, we need to be careful not to place our trust on the arm of flesh in regards to spiritual matters such as the Book of Mormon. Our understanding of the ancient world is changing constantly. As new evidence is discovered old theories will either have to be refined or discarded. Critics need to be careful, therefore, when they make judgements against the Book of Mormon based on historical details that may not be yet confirmed by secular wisdom. After all, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just because something has not been found that does not mean that it does not exist. To abandon the Book of Mormon on this standard is a sandy foundation if there ever was one. Matt Roper wisely summed it up thusly:

Let's imagine a scenario. Suppose I read the Book of Mormon some time ago, say, in the 1970s. I read about the Nephites having barley. I reject the Book of Mormon because there is no evidence for pre-Columbian barley. This was, after all, the scholarly consensus-there was no pre-Columbian domesticated barley in the New World period! But now it turns out that this view was wrong. There was in fact archaeological evidence for barley in pre-Columbian America. It just hadn't been discovered yet. Let's suppose I had even staked my life on the belief in opinion of scholars that there was no such grain before Columbus. Wouldn't I have made a terrible mistake? The example of pre-Columbian barley should be a warning to us that similar evidences for the Book of Mormon, which at present seem to be anachronisms, may yet be forthcoming as well. [2]

** End of Series **

[1]: John L. Lund in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon (The Communications Company. 2007) Pg. 215

[2]: Matt Roper in "Right on Target: Boomerang Hits and the Book of Mormon" (link here).