Sunday, April 9, 2017

Book of Mormon vs Archaeology

Following is an excerpt from a tract titled Testing the Book of Mormon, produced by the Utah Lighthouse Ministry:

Dr. Ray T. Matheny, professor of Anthropology at the church’s Brigham Young University, admitted that he has a difficult time reconciling New World archaeology with the Book of Mormon:

"I really have difficulty in finding issue or quarrel with those opening chapters of the Book of Mormon [i. e., the first 7 chapters which only relate to Lehi and his family around the area of Jerusalem]. But thereafter it doesn't seem like a translation to me.... And the terminologies and the language used and the methods of explaining and putting things down are 19th century literary concepts and cultural experiences one would expect Joseph Smith and his colleagues would experience. And for that reason I call it transliteration, and I’d rather not call it a translation after the 7th chapter. And I have real difficulty in trying to relate these cultural concepts as I've briefly discussed here with archeological findings that I'm aware of….

"If I were doing this cold like John Carlson is here, I would say in evaluating the Book of Mormon that it had no place in the New World whatsoever. I would have to look for the place of the Book of Mormon events to have taken place in the Old World. It just doesn't seem to fit anything that he has been taught in his discipline, nor I in my discipline in anthropology, history; there seems to be no place for it. It seems misplaced. It seems like there are anachronisms. It seems like the items are out of time and place, and trying to put them into the New World. And I think there’s a great difficulty here for we Mormons in understanding what this book is all about." ("Book of Mormon Archeology," Response by Professor Ray T. Matheny, Sunstone Symposium, August 25, 1984, typed copy transcribed from a tape-recording, pp. 30-31)

Three years after speaking at this symposium, Dr. Matheny wrote a letter in which he made it clear that there was still no Book of Mormon archaeology:

"While some people choose to make claims for the Book of Mormon through archaeological evidences, to me they are made prematurely, and without sufficient knowledge.

"I do not support the books written on this subject including The Messiah in Ancient America, or any other. I believe that the authors are making cases out of too little evidence and do not adequately address the problems that archaeology and the Book of Mormon present. I would feel terribly embarrassed if anyone sent a copy of any book written on the subject to the National Museum of Natural History - Smithsonian Institution, or other authority, making claims that cannot as yet be substantiated.… there are very severe problems in this field in trying to make correlations with the scriptures. Speculation, such as practiced so far by Mormon authors has not given church members credibility." (Letter by Ray T. Matheny, dated Dec. 17, 1987)

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