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Book of Mormon Archaeological Publications
by the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Digging into the Book of Mormon

by John L. Sorenson
Digging into the Book of Mormon, Part 1  (Ensign September 1984)
Digging into the Book of Mormon, Part 2  (Ensign October 1984)
Digging into the Book of Mormon, Part 3  (Liahona June 1985)

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Archaeology and Anthropology

"John Sorensen : One primary need is to establish the Book of Mormon as a record of real people addressing real situations that apply to people today. The scripture is too commonly treated as taking place in a vacuum or a never-never land, with characters whose circumstances we neither really grasp nor relate to. To the degree that we see the Book of Mormon as a genuine record of a flesh-and-blood people, we will be more likely to learn the saving lessons they have to teach us.

V. Garth Norman : The Prophet Joseph Smith viewed antiquities with keen interest for their possible relationship to the Book of Mormon. In 1842 in the Times and Seasons, he published commentaries of ancient Maya ruins and speculated on their connection to the book, with the view that such studies would “assist the Saints in establishing the Book of Mormon as a revelation from God.”

In the temple center ruins of Izapa (part of a pre-Mayan civilization dating from about 500 B.C. to A.D. 100), many cultural and geometric features are amazingly consistent with a Nephite/Near Eastern culture. On over thirty monuments placed for ritual commemoration and instruction throughout the temple center, we also find a rich narrative language, comparable to ancient Near Eastern low-relief pictographic art.

Paul R. Cheesman : Joseph Smith declared that the Book of Mormon record was engraved on metal plates. Research has revealed that the ancient world recorded significant events upon plates of gold, silver, bronze, and lead. The Book of Mormon also suggests the use of the wheel. To date, over one hundred ancient wheeled artifacts have been found in the Americas. The Prophet described the Book of Mormon as being buried in a stone box. Since the book was published, over fifty stone boxes have been found containing many varieties of ancient treasures. Studies such as these can stimulate skeptics and scholars to the point where they might actually pick up the book, read it, and gain a testimony of its truth.

William Hamblin : The Book of Mormon mentions fortifications and warfare as integral to Nephite society. Until recently, archaeologists had insisted that they were rare in Central America during Book of Mormon times. However, new research has shown that this early view was incorrect. It has likewise been claimed that the bow and arrow were unknown in early Mesoamerica. Once again, archaeologists have discovered arrow heads, arrow shafts, and pictorial representations of the bow.

I am equally impressed by the things concerning military affairs that the Book of Mormon does not mention. If Joseph Smith were simply plagiarizing the Bible, one would expect war chariots, cavalry, siege engines, and “coats of mail” in the Book of Mormon. Though the Book of Mormon contains numerous descriptions of warfare, weapons, and tactics, none of these biblical military items are mentioned (though chariots for transportation are). The Book of Mormon includes only those items that have counterparts in pre-Columbian Mesoamerican military systems.

Bruce W. Warren : I have lately been researching the ethnohistory of the Jaredites, Mulekites, and secret combinations. Ethnohistory combines the fields of written documents, painted codices, hieroglyphic scripts, iconography (the meaning of art symbols), linguistics, archaeology, and ethnography. The recent discovery of the starting date for Mixtec and neighboring codices and maps at 3114 B.C. has opened up exciting new horizons for research because they date to the Jaredite time period. Just two Mixtec codices picture over 354 place names, along with historical dates and individual names. All this bears on the “land northward,” the Jaredites, and the Mulekites."
 
(New Developments in the Book of Mormon Research,  Ensign February 1988)

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