from the newsgroup alt.religion.mormon:
Q: >>>Thanks for responding. Now I ask: Are you of the opinion that any, ANY empirical evidence would persuade you to believe the Book of Mormon is true?<<<
A: This is an interesting question, and one that I'm not entirely sure that I know the answer to. I have read right through the Book of Mormon several times, making copious notes along the way. I also acquainted myself with a little Mesoamerican history with works by Linda Schele and Michael Coe. I took into account Joseph Smith's background and culture.
All of this left me convinced that the Book of Mormon is a product of the nineteenth century, and that there is nothing about it that cannot be explained in terms of a purely human origin.
So, I guess that the answer to your question would have to be that I don't believe, at this stage, that there is any such empirical evidence, and the question is thus moot.
If, on the other hand, I were to discount what I had learned, I would have to give the following criteria before considering the Book of Mormon to be authentic:
- An explanation of why the Book of Mormon repeatedly quotes the New Testament long before it was written, and why it quotes KJV translation errors, archaisms, and various anachronisms. The theory that the same Spirit inspired both the Hebrew and Nephite prophets is quite specious, as far as I am concerned. As is the theory that Smith copied the KJV when it was close enough to the passage he was 'translating'. Both appear to me to be little more than cop-outs, and both can be shown to fail in certain circumstances. For instance, the New Testament went through the Greek language before it made it to the King James Version. Did this same Spirit that inspired the Hebrews, inspire the Nephites in a language they couldn't understand like Greek? That is the only explanation, even though incredibly credulous, as to how the Greek language influence made it into the portions of the Book of Mormon that quote from the KJV of the New Testament.
- An explanation of why the same issues that faced Smith's culture also faced the Nephites. Issues such as Infant Baptism, Baptism by Immersion/Sprinkling, Freemasonry ('Secret Combinations'), Indigenous Americans as Lost Hebrews, Hired Priests, etc.
- Some confirmation of the existence of Nephites/Lamanites/Mulekite/Jaredites outside of the Book of Mormon. It is not enough to show that parallels exist between cultures - one can prove just about anything using this sort of 'evidence'. We would need verifiable archaeological evidence for these cultures.
- An explanation of why the Nephite (et al) culture/s does not fit that which can be known from history. Why does the Book of Mormon ascribe the use of horses, steel, swords, chariots, etc to the ancient Americans, when we can find no evidence of such? And, on the other hand, why does it fail to record that the ancient Americans used Jade and Obsidian for weapons, worshipped Jaguars and Snakes, had a calendar of eighteen months, played a bizarre ball-game with life and death at stake, etc, etc.
Let me stop there before this turns into a novel. I'll close by saying that I demand the same level of proof for the Book of Mormon as I do for any other document that claims to be of ancient origin. An excellent example is the so-called 'Gospel of Barnabus', a life of Christ that turned up in Spain about 400 years ago. Most unbiased scholars rejected the document as spurious, for reasons not very different than I have advanced for the Book of Mormon. One such reason that I can recall is that the Gospel used the word 'barrel' long before such containers had been invented. It is instructive to note that the people who defended the Gospel were those who had a vested interest in it. The Gospel of Barnabus presents a life of Christ closer to that recorded in the Quran, and was (and, in fact, still is) defended by some Muslims who see it as independent confirmation of their Holy Book. The implications of this for the Book of Mormon are left as an exercise to the reader.