One of the great challenges for Mormons is the complete absence of Book of Mormon archaeology. Despite the tempting promise in the advertisement at the beginning of this article inviting people to “tour Book of Mormon sites” there are no Book of Mormon sites to visit. Notwithstanding the author’s bold plug for his book Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon there is no Book of Mormon geography to decipher.
Yet Mormons talk about Book of Mormon archaeology as though its existence is beyond reasonable question or doubt, that if it hasn’t yet been found it is about to be. One reason for their confidence is articles such as this one in the online Mormon Meridian Magazine. It is notable for the complete absence of content as the author writes a homely account of his fruitless adventures in New World archaeology.
An expert in Book of Mormon archaeology he has written a book on the subject, although one wonders how anyone can be a scientific expert on a non-existent subject. Yet in the article all he can offer the hopeful Mormon reader is the news that the site he originally thought might be “The Ancient City of Nephi” isn’t and that he has identified another site that might be but…
But he gives heart to Mormons because (a) he is an archaeologist and so he must know what he is talking about, always a dangerous assumption in any discipline), and (b) he is looking for “The Ancient City of Nephi” so it must be there or he wouldn’t waste his time looking, but even experts can go on a wild goose chase. Then there is the conversation with his friends, also archaeologists, who grumble that what they just “know” to be true by faith is rejected by non-Mormon experts (always appealing to Mormons who routinely see themselves as victims of ridicule and rejection – but one day brother, one day we will be vindicated)
This is the standard and direction of Mormon academia today. Where other disciplines start with evidence, Mormons begin with a book whose provenance has been shown to be at the very least questionable, proceed by applying the otherwise noble science of New World archaeology to the futile search for evidence that we already know isn’t there, and write books and papers that promise much but deliver nothing; a remarkable triumph of hope over reason.
But you are not going to convince with reason people who have arrived at their conclusions by blind faith before the discussion even begins.