Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Faith Archaeology and the Book of Mormon

[From Rodney Stark, "The Basis of Mormon Success: A Theoretical Application," in James Duke, Latter-day Saint Social Life: Social Research on the LDS Church and its Members. Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998, 45-46. Stark is a non-Mormon Sociologist).

Latter-day Saint liberals often concern themselves with conflicts between the Book of Mormon and archaeological research. . . . The basic problem for both Christian and Latter-day Saint liberals is that they inevitably project their inability to believe to everyone else. Latter-day Saint liberals worry about dis-confirmations of the Book of Mormon because they don't really believe this is an ancient and inspired scripture, but something composed, consciously, or otherwise, by Joseph Smith. Orthodox Saints, believing the Book to be the word of God, are not only able to accommodate some discrepancies, but fully expect archaeologists to find evidence in support of scripture, which is why the LDS Church has supported a considerable amount of New World archaeology. 

Interestingly enough, the orthodox have had some substantial successes. For example, John L. Sorenson (1985) devoted many years to constructing a map of the Book of Mormon. Working entirely with textual references, he located places in relation to one another (how long did it take to walk from Nephi to Zarahemla and in what direction?) and to the topography as described therein. This map turned out to be a remarkable fit for the area surrounding the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Southern Mexico and Northern Guatemala.

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