Question: How does archaeology in the New World fit with the Book of Mormon?

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Question: How does archaeology in the New World fit with the Book of Mormon?

There is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon

It is also worth noting that there is a growing body of evidence from New World archaeology that supports the Book of Mormon. Dr. John Clark of the New World Archaeological Foundation compiled a list of sixty items that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon and were publicly criticized in Joseph Smith's day and matched it with the best research available at that time. The list includes items such as “steel swords,” “barley,” “cement,” “thrones,” and literacy. In 1842, only eight (or 13.3%) of those sixty items were confirmed by archaeological evidence. Thus, in the mid-nineteenth century, archaeology provided little support for the claims made by the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon text ran counter to both expert and popular ideas about ancient America in the early 1800s.

As the efforts of archaeology have shed light on the ancient New World, we find in 2005 that forty-five of those sixty items (75%) have been confirmed. Thirty-five of the items (58%) have been definitively confirmed by archaeological evidence and ten items (17%) have received possible—tentative, yet not fully verified—confirmation. Therefore, as things stand at the moment, current New World archaeological evidence tends to verify the claims made by the Book of Mormon.[1]

Status of Book of Mormon evidence in 1842. This chart includes both Old World and New World evidence.
Status of Book of Mormon evidence in 2005. This chart includes both Old World and New World evidence.

These charts are criticized for “not including all anachronisms” and some claims surface occasionally that Dr. Clark “didn’t follow the consensus on these items”. Critics have prepared charts of their own using their own methodologies to try and “debunk” Clark’s chart. These criticisms miss the entire point of the charts, are ignorant of the methodology by which they were created, and ignore who Dr. Clark is. The selection of the anachronisms was done by taking a random sample of the publicly documented claims of anachronisms from Joseph Smith's day. Dr. Clark is one of the most well-recognized and esteemed Mesoamericanists currently working in his field. He (along with Wade Ardern and Matthew Roper) carefully prepared these lists using the best contemporary scholarship to show the trend that Book of Mormon anachronisms follow—expiring over time (1 Corinthians 4:5). Unfortunately the research they marshaled was never published since such wasn’t the aim of the presentation.

Matthew Roper presented updated charts at the 2019 FairMormon Conference. He updated the list that Clark first made to include 205 publicly availble claims of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon. His research concludes that 141 items have been confirmed, 26 items are trending, and 38 remain yet unconfirmed.[2]

More information on anachronisms can be found in the articles addressing anachronisms, research presented at FairMormon Conferences, and other Latter-day Saint academic venues.

Notes

  1. John Clark, Wade Ardern, and Matthew Roper, “Debating the Foundations of Mormonism: Archaeology and the Book of Mormon,” FAIR Conference 2005.
  2. Matt Roper and Kirk Magleby, "Time Vindicates the Prophet," FairMormon Conference 2019