Contents of One-Minute Answers
Did the Sniithsonian Refute The Book of Mormon?
Question: If the Book of Mormon is true, why does the Smithsonian
Institute put out letters stating that there is no connection between the
Book of Mormon and Central and South American archaeology?
Archaeological evidence or the lack thereof in no way affects the truthfulness
of the Book of Mormon. If someone's testimony of the Book of Mormon is
dependent on archaeological digs, that person had better get a more profound
Actually, the Smithsonian Institute is not giving support to anti-Mormons.
The intent of their letter obviously is to back out of the debate, not
to support one side's position. Their standard letter simply states that
the Smithsonian staff knows of no supporting archaeological evidence for
the truthfulness of the book. While the standard letter has varied over
the years, John L. Sorenson has evaluated the 1979 version of the letter
from the Institute. He has made the following points:
In Joseph Smith's day there was no archaeological evidence for many culture
items mentioned in the Book of Mormon, but in the last 30 to 50 years evidence
has been found for those items. At the time the Book of Mormon was published
and for up to 100 years afterwards, scholars scoffed at the mention of
glass, iron, and steel dating back two thousand years before Christ. However,
archaeologists, anthropologists, and other scientists no longer argue the
credibility of such claims in the Book of Mormon as more and more significant
evidence comes to light.
The Smithsonian institute claims to have no staff memhers that are qualified
to speak about the Book of Mormon.
While the Smithsonian scientists are qualified to discuss archaeology,
they do not claim to know everything there is to know about New World archaeology.
Equally well-qualified, non-Smithsonian (and also non-Mormon) scientists
have sharply disagreed with the Smithsonian scientists on questions which
are pertinent to Book of Mormon archaeology and anthropology.
At least one of the form-letter's statements about New World archaeology,
one which detractors use against the Book of Mormon, has been contradicted
by one of the Smithsonian's own scientists
Several of the materials that the Smithsonian letter says were not used
in pre-Columbian America were, in fact, in use by the Indians of Mexico,
according to reports by the first Spaniards to come to the American continent.
For example, the December, 1983 issue of Science 83 magazine announced
the discovery of pre-Columbian barley in the New World. This is one more
example of items mentioned in the Book of Mormon, the pre-Columbian use
of which was unknown in Joseph Smith's day.
While archaeology can establish the existence of a civilization, the
lack of archaeological evidence doesn't prove a civilization didn't exist.
In 1975 the civilization of Ebla was discovered, though prior to this time
no one could produce an artifact associated with the Ebla people. It is
examples like these which demonstrate the utter nonsense of statements
such as, "Archaeology has proved the existence of all great civilizations"
(The Godmakers film).
Archaeologists in the Americas and around the world continually find
evidence that they cannot piece together into a conclusive picture. Evidence
collected in the Americas is likewise too scattered to either prove or
disprove that Nephites once lived on this continent or that the American
Indians were once called Lamanites.
It would be interesting if the Smithsonian wrote a letter regarding
archaeological proof of the Bible.
For additional information see:
Nibley, Since Cumorah. 1967).
Nibley, Lehi in the Desert and the World of the Jaredites.
Sorenson, "An Evaluation of the Smithsonian Institutions." "Statement
Regarding the Book of Mormon," Preliminary Report, Foundation for Ancient
Research & Mormon Studies.