Is there anything that has been found among the archaeological evidences that would sustain or support the Book of Mormon?
March 1975

“Is there anything that has been found among the archaeological evidences that would sustain or support the Book of Mormon?” New Era, Mar. 1975, 49–50

“Is there anything that has been found among the archaeological evidences that would sustain or support the Book of Mormon?”

Answer/Brother Paul R. Cheesman

There are some linguists who would suggest that the semantics of our language link the words sustain or support to the word prove. Therefore, I would like to explain certain concepts as follows:

The Book of Mormon was not written with the intention of providing a full historical account of the people involved. Rather, Mormon, Moroni, and Nephi, the three principal authors, have written an abridged spiritual record that contains only enough historical data to add continuity to a record that involves a very lengthy time span. Any external evidence would primarily, therefore, be important for the book’s historicity, not its spiritual message. Since the record contains spiritual lessons, the reader would need to have a spiritual experience in order to secure the verification of its validity. The formula for gaining that testimony is found in Moroni 10:4–5 [Moro. 10:4–5] from the record itself. Proof of the Book of Mormon thus remains within the spiritual realm and not from studying archaeology.

Even though a testimony is gained only by a prayerful study of this record, still there are many external evidences found that would sustain or support the Book of Mormon. It must be remembered also that the Book of Mormon does not claim to be a record of all the inhabitants of the American continent or deal with the ancestors of all the American Indians. It does claim to be a spiritual record of three groups that came to America.

The findings of the scientific world reveal that prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the civilization of the American continent was fantastic. The people enjoyed great architectural achievements, engineered superb agricultural irrigation systems, were masterful goldsmiths and silversmiths, and were part of a well-planned civic, political, and religious organization. In most every facet of living, the civilization of these ancient ancestors of the American Indian compared favorably with the majesty and grandeur of Rome and Greece. Would it not be supportive evidence, then, to read how the Book of Mormon similarly describes large cities with temples, as well as a highly cultured civilization rich in gold, silver, and fine textiles?

This record centers around a strongly religious governing body constantly at war with those who opposed its teachings. Academic research reveals that religion seemed to be the underlying influence among many of the early American groups. The Book of Mormon’s central figure of influence is Jesus Christ, whose visits to this continent are recorded therein. All through ancient American legend, and even today in the various tribes living upon the American continent, we learn of one of the most enduring ancient legends—the story of the bearded white God who came to their ancestors, taught them, blessed them, and promised to return. One cannot help but contemplate upon these similarities. There was an advanced culture here anciently; the Book of Mormon tells of such a society that flowered and died anciently.

The early inhabitants of the land we now refer to as America were as civilized and cultured at their peak as any group living any place upon the earth during this equivalent time. Many scholars conclude that the peak of the pre-Columbian civilization was coexistent with the time of Christ. Studying the present unpretentious Indian cultures, one would wonder what has happened to that majestic civilization that once existed upon this continent. Where are the people who produced the magnificent highways that carried travelers to temples and palaces as great as those found in the Old World? The story of these peoples, revealed in the Book of Mormon, provides some interesting parallels with modern archaeological discoveries and Indian traditions.

A God who is not a respecter of persons would certainly visit, instruct, and leave a record of his dealings with the millions of people in this New World as well as the old. Translations of ancient Indian histories, as well as the Book of Mormon, bear this out. Many Indian traditions reveal a knowledge of the flood, the ark, the dividing of the waters, and other biblical occurrences, all told to the Spaniards when they arrived in the New World.

There are many concepts in the Book of Mormon that emerge in man’s study of archaeology and ethnology. Some of those that do sustain and support the Book of Mormon record or deal with advanced post-Book-of-Mormon civilization are listed as follows:

Archaeological Evidences

Book of Mormon

Buildings as seen by any tourist in Meso and South America

2 Ne. 5:15; Mosiah 8:8; Mosiah 9:8; Mosiah 11:8

Cement of unusual strength

Hel. 3:7, 9, 11

Towers seen by Cortez in his explanation

Alma 48:1; Alma 50:4

Highways up to 9,000 miles in length crisscrossing South America

1 Ne. 21:11; Hel. 14:24

Wheels—many wheeled toys have been found

2 Ne. 12:7; Alma 18:9

Weapons of similar Old World construction have been found

Alma 23:13; Alma 25:14; Jarom 1:8

Metallurgy—including gold, silver, and copper

Hel. 6:9; Ether 10:23

Practice of medicine and surgery

Alma 46:40

Evidence of a highly organized priesthood

Alma 4:20; Alma 13:6

Evidences of a high civilization are also revealed in ancient America’s knowledge of mathematics, astronomy, religious practices, such as sacrifice, baptism, sacrament, circumcision, and belief in immortality. All of these, plus many other evidences, certainly would sustain and support the Book of Mormon.

It may be noted that there are still some historical and cultural concepts mentioned in the Book of Mormon that have not been sustained by the study of archaeology. This is very natural, since this discipline is a new science that came into being near the turn of the century, and new discoveries are being reported constantly. Time will undoubtedly provide the supportive evidence for the few remaining claims in the Book of Mormon that are lacking in archaeological parallels. One could say with certainty that nothing in the Book of Mormon has been proven to be false through the findings of archaeology—indeed there are many supportive evidences.

In my research on ancient America, along with my study of the Book of Mormon, I have found hundreds of examples that would substantiate the Book of Mormon story.

  • Associate Professor of Ancient Scripture, Brigham Young University