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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why hasn't more compelling archaeological evidence surfaced of the Book of Mormon?

I get this question occasionally (not usually in a sincere way, and usually from folks who are trying to "catch me" in my words). The answer is that there is already a lot of archaeological evidence out there, but it has not been correlated to Book of Mormon texts by "mainstream" science. Secular scientists have no real compelling reason to examine Book of Mormon claims in light of accumulated archaeological findings because, well, the Book of Mormon is a spiritual text. They just don't see a need to delve into that relationship. They certainly cannot publish it and expect to have a career within the secular scientific community. The two are like oil and water.

That's why voices like mine and other faithful LDS apologists and scholars are necessary to the search for this knowledge through our interpretation of secular findings. And it's an important question to answer because the Book of Mormon has time and time again been proven to show that its origins can only have one of two explanations: either it is the most ingenious fraud ever concocted by one man (remarkable in itself), or it is the very word of God to people in the ancient Americas, recorded by the same.

Of course, I am irrevocably convinced of the latter explanation, with or without archaeological evidences, because the Holy Ghost has testified to me of its truth.

But one big reason we don't have more compelling physical evidences stands out in my mind. It has to do with the encroachment of modern civilization on the ancient remnants of American ruins.

It started with the Conquistadores, who brought Catholic missionaries with them who sought to bring the light of Gospel knowledge and salvation to whomever they could find. Their intentions, noble or not, were tarnished by their overzealous efforts to stamp out any remnant of pagan beliefs among the native Aztecs and Mayans. All but a few precious codices of the Mesoamerican people were burned to ashes and lost forever. Some oral traditions were later written down, several of which have astonishing parallels to and are riddled with motifs of Bible traditions. Some missionaries were intrigued by these stories and wrote them down to preserve them for study. Others, however, stopped at nothing to erase them from the collective conscious of the people they encountered. Even if that did lead to genuine faith in Jesus Christ among the natives, it was a crime against humanity to have censored all of that valuable history and those intricate origin stories.

An excavator destroys the main
structure at an archaeological
site in Caye Caulker, Belize. The
material excavated was used
for highway road bed fill.
As for artifacts, take, for example, this frustratingly tragic story from Caye Caulker, Belize. For convenience, here are the relevant quotes from the article:

Today we learned that a major Mayan Monument had been bulldozed for roadfill aggregate. 7news went to Orange Walk District, near the northern district boundary to find out that Noh Mul – or at least a large part of it – is no more. It’s a stunning development – and Jules Vasquez reports.
...
To give a broader sense of context – the site known as Noh Mul or “Big Hill” is scattered over a wide area about 12 square miles – and is estimated to have been home to 40,000 people between 500 and 250 BC. There are about 81 separate buildings – all on private property. But the one that has been destroyed is the namesake, the Big Hill – as it was the ceremonial center and main structure. 
...
"...this was around maybe 250bc and it would have been part of the ceremonial precinct, this would have been probably a public building or a building where the Nobels or the High Priest would have occupied. This building would have been probably the focal point. These mounds you are seeing around here and another group over there – they might have had connectivity between ceremonial administrative religious function here. This was sort of the epi-center of this settlement."
... 
"Like a huge palace or building or a huge temple it would have had many rooms in there, multi-layered rooms so you have rooms for people living and you would also had several tombs in there of the people who lived in this area here."
...
"Belize is 8,867 square miles of jungle. We are only around 16 personell in the department. We can’t be in the Chiquibul and at the same time being at La Milpa. We applaud whoever can help us. It is our herritage and we all have to chip in and when things like this happen – it affects all of us."

I'm sickened that this happens. I also know it's inevitable and that God has a plan to eventually reveal to us what was lost. But, I can't help but wonder in dismay at who knows how many pages of scholarship this site could have generated. Its main center of worship, and likely "library" of useful cultural knowledge, is wastefully and tragically gone.

There are thousands more sites just like Noh Mul in Mexico and Central America that are in similar danger. I just hope that enough young people, especially LDS youth, will get into the field of archaeology, and enough concerned (and wealthy) individuals and governments will come together to help save what knowledge we have left.