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Inspired by my previous question on the divine inspiration of the Bible, I would like to ask a similar question on the Book of Mormon:

According to Latter-day Saints, what are the strongest apologetic arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon? What evidence do we have to be confident that the Book of Mormon was supernaturally inspired by God?

Note: the counterpart question can be found at What are scholarly objections to the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon?


Related: What is the biblical basis for believing in the Book of Mormon?

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    I feel that this is far too vast a subject to award a "single best" answer to anyone.
    – pygosceles
    Jul 8 at 21:50
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    This doesn't fit at an answer since answers here are supposed to be self-contained and this is instead a link to answers posted elsewhere, but FAIR is an organization dedicated to faithful answers to questions about or against the Book of Mormon and Latter-day Saint doctrine. Main website: fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Main_Page, also see fairlatterdaysaints.org/answers/Book_of_Mormon and fairlatterdaysaints.org/evidences/Category:Book_of_Mormon Jul 9 at 4:48
  • I found it challenging to present all of the information I hoped to within the space allotted. This was the first time I learned the site has a 30,000 character limit =). I realize this response was also challenging to read. I have therefore split my post into two. (But even then I had to leave so much out!!) I'm game for other suggestions if there's a better way to do justice to the topic. Jul 10 at 22:31
  • I remember in Articles of Faith by Talmage has a chapter on this, chapter 15, page 273-295
    – depperm
    Jul 11 at 21:22
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    the more I think about this question or the one for the Bible I think many answers miss the mark. Proving divine inspiration is difficult, it comes down to #5-6 (revelation). Plenty of books can testify of Christ, have historic backing, and witnesses of the work, but at some point it comes to relying on the Holy Spirit to let us know what is true or relying on other's revelation. But there are plenty of disagreements over who 'others' includes, so no clear answer
    – depperm
    Jul 13 at 17:08
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+100

I initially offered a response in 3 sections:

  1. Negative arguments (a critical assessment of arguments against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon)
  2. Positive arguments (evidence not effectively explained by naturalistic causes)
  3. General arguments

This response was too long (no but really, even after 3 edits it was too much). I've reduced this post to the negative arguments, and provided a separate answer for positive & general arguments.

Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches the principle of gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon (BoM) through divine inspiration, not through apologetics or academics, a discussion of BoM apologetics would be of no practical value unless it engages with the views of the book’s critics. Point #1 is therefore necessary in order to provide a worthwhile answer to the OP’s question.


  1. Negative arguments

As has already been pointed out, it would be impossible in this format to thoroughly address 191 years of denouncement of the BoM. I’ll focus here on the arguments that this community has indicated it believes are the strongest.

I’ll use as the working assumption that the geography of the BoM best matches Mesoamerica. This is not an official position of the church, but is the position of most LDS scholars who study the issue.

A. The absence of the gold plates

Joseph Smith indicated that he returned the gold plates to Moroni, the messenger who directed him to the plates in the first place. Many critics suggest that if we just had the plates we could corroborate Joseph Smith’s story and people would believe.

There are at least two reasons why this wouldn't work:

  • 6 of the people who did see the plates later left the movement and rejected Joseph Smith. Not one of them ever denied seeing the plates, but seeing wasn’t enough to produce lasting commitment
  • The purpose of the Book of Mormon is entirely overlooked by this appeal (see my other answer). Latter-day Saints assert that the Book of Mormon was given to help us develop faith and come unto Christ, not to persuade us to obey robotically because God made it impossible to disbelieve. As in the days of the ancient apostles, God has allowed people the possibility of disbelief. I suggest His wisdom in doing so is well-expressed in Luke 12:47-48. If He gives us truth we aren’t ready to obey, it serves only to condemn us further. So a knowledge of the truthfulness of the BoM is given in response to a sincere heart, real intent, and inquiring of God…not in response to curiosity or the wisdom of men.

B. Passages copied from the KJV of the Bible

Why would Joseph Smith, if inspired, usually use the KJV wording when BoM authors quoted Biblical passages? Especially in cases where there are (now) known errors in the KJV? (to be sure, the errors we’re talking about here are in almost all cases remarkably inconsequential variations—kind of like most of the 400,000 variants in the Greek New Testament)

There is a fundamental difference in the understanding of scripture that leads the LDS to see this issue very differently from many of other faiths. We do not have a doctrine of scriptural inerrancy, and as a result, textual criticism & seeking out an Ur-text are less central to our theology, which is rooted in modern revelation. As a result—and I know that this is frustrating to many of other faiths—we aren’t bothered by the possibility that a minor historical detail is misstated, as long as the doctrinal message of the passage is preserved.

I believe a good but imperfect translation can be adequate for God’s purposes—He’s willing to work through His human servants, even if their writing isn’t as good as His.

Given this perspective, I suggest there are several very good reasons why God might inspire Joseph Smith to largely follow the KJV:

  • The KJV is written in a very articulate, formal English. All languages morph over time, but formal language changes much more slowly. By using formal language, the message remains intelligible for centuries.
  • If the KJV translation was “good enough” for God’s purposes, why not use it? It’s well written and was the most widely used English translation of the Bible at the time
  • It makes memorizing & cross-referencing passages much more straightforward. I suggest God would be more interested in someone remembering a 99.5% accurate passage than reading and forgetting one that is 100% accurate.
  • It’s remarkably utilitarian. Imagine if Joseph Smith had immediately produced a radically revised version of Isaiah in the BoM…it would have been even harder to get people to take it seriously than it already was.
  • It demonstrated to the initial recipients of the BoM the message taught therein: the BoM affirms and supports the teachings of the Bible. One of the ways it did so was by quoting their Bible: the KJV.

There are also examples where the BoM amends the KJV and does so in harmony with older versions of the Biblical text. A well-known example comes from 2 Nephi 12:16 which quotes Isaiah 2:16:

The Greek (Septuagint) has “ships of the sea.” The Hebrew has “ships of Tarshish.” The Book of Mormon has both, showing that the brass plates had lost neither phrase. (See footnote to 2 Nephi 2:16).

We do not believe God intended to reveal a textbook in grammar, Greek, or Hebrew when He provided the BoM. We do believe He provided a text that teaches the doctrines of eternity clearly.

C. Anachronisms

The precise list changes over time (as archeology discovers things previously thought not to exist); I’ll respond to those specifically raised in the twin question.

  • Horses: This one was popular in past generations and is sometimes repeated by sources that have not kept abreast of the evidence. Horse remains have been discovered in Mesoamerica that predate the arrival of the Spanish, but are thousands of years too recent to belong to extinct native horses (see here)
  • Cows/cattle: generic terms for numerous domesticated species
  • Goats: there are species of goat native to the Americas
  • Elephants: Mammoth & Mastodon remains, native American histories, and artwork indicate that members of the elephantidae family survived until just a few thousand years ago (see here - multiple examples of elephantidae remains less than 2500 years old). “Elephants” are never mentioned among the Nephites, only the Jaredites, at a point in time more than 4000 years ago. What would have been anachronistic is for an 1829 book to call them “mammoths” or “mastodons” like we do today.
  • Barley: this was a favorite of anti-Mormon literature for decades…until the existence of Pre-Columbian barley was discovered in the 1980s (see here). There have been at least 8 geographically distinct finds of New World little barley (Hordeum pusillum) since that time (see here)
  • Wheat: Often taken to be a reference to amaranth, a grain for which the most intelligible 1829 English translation would be: wheat
  • Silk: See discussion of the forms of Mesoamerican silk here
  • Steel: Carburized iron (an early form of steel) has been around for millennia. Note that the chronologically last mention of steel in the Book of Mormon is in the book of Jarom, still early in Nephite history. If the descendants of Lehi brought a knowledge of old-world metallurgy with them, much of that knowledge was likely lost within a few generations. The types of steel we are talking about would rust far more quickly than modern steel, would fare particularly poorly in the humid climate of Mesoamerica, and would be very unlikely to survive to be discovered millennia later.
  • Etc. My response to many such anachronisms is: “barley”. For years it was thought to be a coup de grace because it was known not to have existed in ancient America, but it turns out it did. If I have reason to believe the book on other grounds, the fact that only almost all the anachronisms pointed out in the 19th century have now been resolved does not close my mind to the possibility that there will be future “barley” moments. In a region where tens of thousands of hitherto unknown buildings were recently discovered by LIDAR (see a more detailed discussion in Joe’s post), I suggest it is cavalier to put much weight on the ever-shifting claims of anachronism.
  • Extensive responses to the common claims of Book of Mormon anachronisms can be found here: (Anachronisms claimed to exist in the Book of Mormon)

D. Genetics

The church published this essay on the relevant genetics—it is both scientifically and spiritually rigorous. The TL;DR is actually pretty precise: genetics is unable to prove or disprove a relationship in the last 3,000 years between descendants of first temple-era Jews and native Americans.

It is noteworthy that we have no DNA samples or distributions for first temple era-Jews, Jewish DNA has been mixed through multiple diasporas since that time, and that the overwhelming majority of the native inhabitants of the Americas were killed during the European conquest, destroying much genetic diversity. Neither modern population offers a DNA sample that can provide anything near a complete or pristine record of DNA from several thousand years ago. This had led to widely varying results including many premature claims of both proof and disproof of the relationship between native Americans and first temple-era Jews.

Populations mix and disperse too quickly for DNA analysis to prove or disprove relationships from 2600 years ago.

E. Archeology

This has been discussed at length in other posts on this page. I’ll offer just three comments:

  • The LIDAR discoveries in Mesoamerica during the last few years have vindicated numerous claims of the Book of Mormon, including the high population levels and defensive structures previously thought not to exist. They’ve also demonstrated the need for humility about what we don’t know or haven’t found yet—it’s a dense jungle!
  • If a modern jetliner with hundreds of communication devices on board can disappear without a trace in a matter of hours, and a 7-story pyramid can remain hidden in a jungle for centuries without notice, the fact that some of the remains of a civilization that was eradicated 1600 years ago haven’t been found yet should not be surprising.
  • The popular claims is that there is “no” archeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon. More cautious exegetes call it an almost total absence. That said, the evidence of large civilizations in ancient Mesoamerica is overwhelming. We may not be able to match the names (though there are many arguments that Olmecs = Jaredites, Zapotecs = Mulekites, Maya = descendants of Lehi—I’m not saying this is true, just acknowledging that these are common theories), but that there were large groups of people with complex systems of government, architecture, worship, and warfare in the very time and place as described by the Book of Mormon, that’s an awful lot of archeology. Short of a sign that says “welcome to Zarahemla”, what are we looking for?

F. Reformed Egyptian

We should expect to find writing (and we do!) in Mesoamerica - but not Egyptian writing. The Book of Mormon itself indicates that Reformed Egyptian was not the preferred form of writing (see Mormon 9:33), and was only used on the plates due to space constraints. The record-keeping discussed in the book implies relatively few were taught the language and regular religious communication neither used plates (impractical) nor Egyptian (unnecessary). A lesser-known language such as this would have no practical value in everyday commerce or in public inscriptions.

The fact that the language is not known from any other civilization is expressly acknowledged by the text in Mormon chapter 9:

32 And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.

34 But the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also that none other people knoweth our language;

It is also noteworthy that the existence of writing in Mesoamerica shows up in the archeological record during the time and place covered by the Book of Mormon. The idea that writing was introduced to the Americas by the Old World is extremely consistent with the Book of Mormon. The idea that writing—arguably humanity’s most brilliant invention—was developed independently but along similar lines in both the Old World and the New is not impossible, but it would be a greater miracle than most of the claims in the Bible or the Book of Mormon!

G. Book of Abraham

It is often claimed that the scrolls used by Joseph Smith to derive the book of Abraham have been discovered, and that once translated by modern scholars, they were found to have nothing to do with Abraham. Therefore, it is claimed, Joseph Smith is discredited as a translator.

Strictly speaking, a logical proof that the book of Abraham is a fraud would neither prove nor disprove the Book of Mormon. But I suggest there is much more to be said about the book of Abraham before we write it off.

The statement by the church on the matter is here

The piece of the puzzle often left out of book of Abraham criticisms is that only a fraction of Joseph Smith’s Egyptian collection has been discovered, much remains lost.

Multiple eyewitnesses saw the scrolls Joseph Smith had at the time he translated the book of Abraham, and none of the fragments that were rediscovered in the 20th century match the description of what they knew as the Abraham scroll. Conclusion: the Abraham scroll is not among the rediscovered fragments.

From scholar John Gee:

according to a…non-Mormon eyewitness account, the Book of Abraham seems to have been on a very long and completely intact roll and therefore not even on the same scroll as the fragments we have. And this in turn means that none of the fragments of the Joseph Smith Papyri that we have is from the same scroll as the Book of Abraham and if none of the fragments that we currently have comes from the same scroll as the Book of Abraham then the fact that none of the texts on them matches the Book of Abraham is not a problem. Critics of the church have presumed that the Book of Abraham must be on the fragments that we currently have. Why they assume that is beyond me. Historical evidence is against such a conclusion.

Quotation and additional details drawn from John Gee’s work here.

The likely fate of the Abraham Scroll is summarized by the RSC:

Emma Smith (Joseph’s widow), her second husband (Lewis C. Bidamon), and her son Joseph Smith III sold the mummies and the papyri to a man named Abel Combs.

Abel Combs split up the papyri. Some he sold to the St. Louis Museum, including at least two of the rolls and at least two of the mummies; some of the mounted fragments he kept. The St. Louis Museum sold the rolls and mummies to Colonel Wood’s Museum in Chicago. Wood’s Museum burned down in the Chicago Fire of 1871, and presumably the papyri and mummies were destroyed with it.

Just offering an analytical opinion—if the collection included really nice scrolls as well as rougher fragments, and the museum only purchased a portion of the papyrus collection, which were they more likely to buy? (keeping in mind the artifacts were for display more than study). I suggest the procurer for the museum took the best and left the rest…meaning the Abraham scroll did end up in Wood’s Museum in Chicago and was lost to history in the Chicago fire of 1871.

H. Only one source

It has been asserted that if Joseph Smith had never been born, we would have no Book of Mormon. This is a circular argument, because it presupposes the conclusion it aims to prove: that God did not inspire the Book of Mormon. Absent this presupposed premise, if God may or may not have inspired the Book of Mormon, no Book of Mormon does not logically follow from no Joseph Smith.

Others have suggested, more cautiously, that although the circular argument does not work, the fact that our knowledge of the Book of Mormon comes through only one individual does leave some corroborating evidence to be desired. I suggest this argument is overplayed for at least two reasons:

  • Most teachings in the Bible come via only one source (the prophecies of Isaiah rely upon Isaiah, almost all of the Gospel of John is found only in John, the book of Revelation is…quite unique (compared to the rest of the New Testament). Many of these theological truths comes to us via one source.
  • But wouldn’t it be nice to have other evidence for the Book of Mormon? Archeology was discussed above; stylometry will be discussed below. But the fundamental answer to this question is…we’re asking the wrong question. God didn’t want people to learn that the Book of Mormon was true through man’s wisdom, He wanted them to learn it from Him. This point is developed much further in my other answer to this question.

Conclusion

Latter-day Saints do not believe in proving the Book of Mormon by an appeal to archeology, but have found ample evidence to make a defensive case for the Book of Mormon from this and other disciplines.

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    FWIW, your post got flagged as excessively long. If you could redact the parts you state are your opinion or personal belief it might improve the readability (but at least it's not a big wall of text!)
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 10 at 20:06
  • @PeterTurner thanks for the heads up--is there a target length? Jul 10 at 20:09
  • Good answers are always succinct. I think this is about 3 times longer than an answer someone would want to read
    – Peter Turner
    Jul 10 at 20:24
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    You say at one point "God removed the golden plates because he wanted people to have the choice, not be forced to believe". Yet you also say that many of the people who saw the golden plates went on not to believe. So that's not really an argument. Jul 11 at 1:16
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    @TKoL what motives would you ascribe to David Whitmer for saying this? He didn't just refuse to deny the BoM, he actively affirmed it (despite abandoning Joseph Smith & leaving the church 50 years earlier), including at the end of life as he prepared to meet his maker. Pretty gutsy for a Christian with nothing to gain for it to lie in God's name on his deathbed. Not a deductive proof of the BoM, but good reason to pause to consider it. Jul 12 at 20:32
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1. Authorship-Translator

Joseph Smith had an elementary education and managed to produce a 500 page book in 3 months (obtained plates on 22 September 1827).

Born into a poor farming family, he was the fifth child of 11 — nine of whom survived childhood. Because his family could not afford the luxury of public education, Joseph received only three years of formal schooling

Joseph translated the record in about three months, and the resultant Book of Mormon was first published in New York in 1830. A volume of over 500 pages1

a. Witnesses to the Golden Plates

There are three witnesses who state: (Each of these witness for a time left the church but never denied/recanted their witness2)

That we,... have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us;

There are also eight witnesses who state:

has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken.

b. Content/Evidence

  • Stylometry (not an official LDS source, as the church is generally not reliant on physical evidence but spiritual3)
  • language/linguistics4

c. Miraculous Translation

  • J.S. only 24 years of age

  • J.S. had little financially and had to support his family (farm work)

  • J.S. life was threatened, mobs tried to steal the plates

  • no electronics (no telephone, no dictating equipment, fax, word processor, or copy machine—not even electric light)

  • J.S. never visited South America or the Middle East

  • J.S. belonged to no professional societies, performed no extensive research projects, nor did he have learned colleagues with whom to discuss the ancient text

  • Typically a literary work undergoes extensive revisions and editing before a final, finely tuned draft is completed. For example, Abraham Lincoln rewrote his Gettysburg Address five different times, each version varying slightly from the other (see World Book Encyclopedia, 1992).

    I have had the glorious experience of quietly examining several pages of Joseph’s original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which is safely protected in the Church archives. I was overwhelmed at the purity of the transcription which had only a very few, insignificant corrections, such as a misspelled word. Joseph’s original manuscript is so perfect, it could only have come from one source—divine revelation.

In addition to above (evidence against Book of Mormon just being written and was in fact 'supernaturally inspired')

  • 260,000 words (in 65 days or 3 months)
  • at least 102 chapters: 25 about wars, 10 about history, 21 about prophecy, 32 about doctrines, 5 about missionaries, and 9 about the mission of Christ
  • record covers a period of roughly 3,000 years, consisting of at least 10 unique tribes of people, detailing the religious, economic, social, and political cultures and institutions of 3 distinct nations
  • After pauses for sleep/food

    "...when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him.”see also link

  • multiple perspectives with different writing styles
  • remember no proofreading or editing
  • All of these descriptions must be cogent and consistent with one another, standing up to academic and investigatory scrutiny for more than 100 years

2. Purpose of the Book of Mormon

The purpose of the Book of Mormon as stated on the title page is:

And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations

From the introduction:

Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

It can be argued that the book itself can stand for itself and its inspiration.

1 Joseph Smith and the Restoration and How Long Did it Take Joseph Smith to Translate the Book of Mormon

2 The Last Witness of the Three Witnesses and Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

3 Mounting Evidence for the Book of Mormon 2nd paragraph specifically

4 Answer about evidence of Jewish descendants in America, Chiasmus in the Book of Mormon, Research and Perspectives, The Book of Mormon and Archeology (from main unofficial LDS apologist site)

See also Book of Mormon Translation

J.S. stands for Joseph Smith, so I didn't have to type it out each time


I don't expect this answer to convince anyone, as new arguments against arise frequently. From An Approach to the Book of Mormon

>When a man asks for proof we can be pretty sure that proof is the last thing in the world he really wants. His request is thrown out as a challenge, and the chances are that he has no intention of being shown up. After all these years the Bible itself is still not proven to those who do not choose to believe it, and the eminent Harry Torczyner now declares that the main problem of Bible study today is to determine whether or not “the Biblical speeches, songs and laws are forgeries.” So the Book of Mormon as an “unproven” book and itself in good company.
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    I don't believe you addressed the question being ask. "what are the strongest apologetic arguments for the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon? What evidence do we have to be confident that the Book of Mormon was supernaturally inspired by God?" Apologetics, speaking in defense defending religious doctrines through systematic argumentation and discourse. So, how did Joseph Smith know the BOM is the most correct book on earth according to its precepts? How do we test its truth claims? Is it consistent with biblical claims of prophecy? Is the BOM testable historically etc.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jul 7 at 14:03
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    @Mr.Bond I believe I summarized the strongest apologetic arguments and presented evidence that the Book of Mormon was inspired by God (see #1). JS knew it was the most correct book because he translated/read it and was a prophet of God (see #2). The last few points seem to want further explanation, however I feel that would be beyond the scope of the question. Have you looked at my sources? An Approach from the BoM is a 290 pages that addresses most of this and Research and Perspectives is also quite lengthy.
    – depperm
    Jul 7 at 14:17
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    @Mr.Bond I found this answer to be quite thorough, not exhaustive, but quite thorough. As far as using this to encourage those against the BOM to believe in and/or accept it, I find that to unproductive. Due to the spiritual nature of the origins and purposes of the book, those against the book typically do so because of implications. If the book is true/correct, then Joseph is/was a prophet, the Church is Christ's church restored to the earth, among other things. Personal spiritual evidence is required to fully accept the book as truth, not secular secondary aspects of the origins of it. Jul 7 at 18:06
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    @DJClayworth how? Even making something up under the circumstances would be just as difficult. Lets say one was a farmer. Would writing the amount he did/dictated (~4k words a day), in the timeframe, with his education, with his resources (no computer), in the manner he did (picking up without back tracking, minor editing), in style (multiple views(stylometry), multiple cultures, about Christ), etc be feasible?
    – depperm
    Jul 8 at 18:11
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    here is a quora response or this one that offers a similar challenge to anyone; that goes into greater detail about the miraculous nature of the BOM
    – depperm
    Jul 8 at 18:24
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tl;dr Either Joseph Smith had a nearly unrealistically powerful imagination and coincidentally had many completely imaginative story elements line up with reality, or he had some kind of supernatural--maybe divine--help, as shown by the following archeological evidence.


Previous to 2018, there was this argument against the authenticity of the Book of Mormon: there is no corroborating archeological evidence. The argument goes, if there was such a large civilization that spanned 1000 years somewhere in the Americas, why did no known civilization's timeline line up and why didn't objects, cities, etc. from the book appear somewhere in the archeological record?

One thing that exacerbated the criticism was the cultural belief among believers in the Book of Mormon, especially in the 1800s, that the Native Americans of the United States were the principal descendants of the subjects of the Book of Mormon.

Arguments pointing out these inconsistencies and lack of archeological evidence are common among Western researchers and skeptics of the Book of Mormon. (Not only is there a lack of archeological evidence in the United States, but some Native American nations' DNA suggest they came over land bridges between Russia and Alaska, while the Book of Mormon peoples came by sea from the Middle East.)

In recent years, a new eye from the Western world turned to Central America in the form of lidar. From a plane, drone, or helicopter, lidar can reveal archeological structure behind ultra-dense foliage (forests), behind a shallow level of earth, and through water.

Here are some things reported by BBC and National Geographic, among other sources, near Guatemala.

(Book of Mormon descriptions and Central America have often been linked, and one reason is the description of a "narrow neck of land" that a person could journey across in a day.)

(Keep in mind a quote from these reports: "Francisco Estrada-Belli, a Tulane University archaeologist, told National Geographic. 'We'll need 100 years to go through all [the data] and really understand what we're seeing.'" It is conceivable that such discovery is not confined to Guatemala and that things we still don't see will be discovered from already existing data.)

  • The estimated Mayan population is probably not the consensus ~5 million (too small to match claims in the Book of Mormon), but could easily be 10 to 15 million.
  • Book of Mormon claims that the main story occurs with meaningful population from 600 B.C. to 450 A.D. was thought incompatible with the Mayan civilization. The consensus was they lived from 400 to 900 A.D. Lidar reveals there is likely population in the area for nearly 3000 years, including the heavy population of the Mayans between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. and the peak at around 400 or 500 A.D., which is the century in which the Book of Mormon claims the population was desolated by a never-ending war and a degradation of society. (Previous understanding of Mayans included human sacrifice, and this level of degradation is mentioned at the end of the Book of Mormon.)
  • Found: "incredible defensive structures" that included walls, fortresses, and moots, including hundreds of kilometers of fortification walls that were never found even with archeologists mapping walls in the same area. (A large part of the Book of Mormon follows the story of the nation at war with its sister nation, and an influential military leader who fortifies every city with large walls.) (The Book of Mormon ends with a description of a culture that revolved around war, in which all non-war people and all Christians are killed, and the last survivor, Moroni--son of Mormon--runs from the death culture to bury the metal Book of Mormon somewhere it won't be found and destroyed. From the lidar researchers: "Among the most surprising findings was the ubiquity of defensive walls, ramparts, terraces, and fortresses. 'Warfare wasn’t only happening toward the end of the civilization,' said Garrison. 'It was large-scale and systematic, and it endured over many years.'")
  • Found: more pyramids (see photo below). The Book of Mormon discusses temples and towers to observe incoming enemies that have similarities.
  • Found: complex system of causeways (e.g. raised highways) linking all Mayan cities. The Book of Mormon discusses these and regular interstate commerce (which was previously thought incongruent with pre-Columbian American history).
  • Areas that were thought to be uninhabitable in the swamps or coast line now show cities and buildings. (The Book of Mormon details times, such as during the death of Christ in the Middle East, where the face of the land was changed by earthquakes and storms. Cities were burned having caught fire (by lightning?); volcanoes destroying cities; cities were drowned, permanently under water; mountains appeared where cities used to be. In some cases, the Book of Mormon claims cities were rebuilt between the death of Christ and 400 A.D.)
  • Mysterious "abandonment" of homes and "disappearance" of the Mayans, despite no evidence of natural catastrophe around 500 A.D. Some theories claim they mismanaged their resources and died, despite evidence showing that unlikely, as they are meticulous organizers and preservers. (Book of Mormon claims large amount of the people became war-obsessed and killed everyone, including themselves, over time.)

Reminder, modern historians and researchers do not believe and have no evidence that any of these findings that appear in the Book of Mormon and in Guatemala lidar data (e.g. elevated highways, fortified walls, population and timeframe) were known to anyone during the time of Joseph Smith (mid-1800s) and there is no explanation how an uneducated, teenage boy from rural New York would know to copy these ideas. From the lidar researchers: "After decades of combing through the forests, no archaeologists had stumbled across these sites." Either Joseph Smith had a nearly unrealistically powerful imagination and coincidentally had many completely imaginative story elements line up with reality, or he had some kind of supernatural--maybe divine--help.

Anything yet unconfirmed in the Book of Mormon could have an explanation, as it's not disproved, but like the ancient civilizations, hasn't had evidence for or against yet.

In the last 4 years, lidar has uncovered other civilization around the Gulf of Mexico with much more area yet to be thoroughly researched and large amounts of data collected yet to be analyzed.

  • 2020 report on the largest Mayan structure ever discovered, that might be a place of worship: link
  • Pre-Columbian settlement discovered off west coast of Florida: link
  • A city at least as big as Manhattan in Michoacan, Mexico, with 40,000 structures having been buried by lava: link
  • Ancient, massive city on the eastern coast of Honduras and Nicaragua, which is now home to previously-thought extinct animal and plant species: link
  • Enough "lost cities" in eastern Honduras; evidence points to a "lost civilization": link

Screenshot of forest in Guatemala seen by eye and seen with lidar, from BBC screenshot of forest in Guatemala seen by eye and seen with lidar, from BBC

Screenshot of forest in Guatemala seen by eye and seen with lidar, from National Geographic screenshot of forest in Guatemala seen by eye and seen with lidar, from National Geographic

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    while a good answer, it should be noted the LDS church has no official stance on where the Book of Mormon took place. It is a common belief it happened in South America and some church leaders have made comments that lead to this conclusion but there is still no official stance
    – depperm
    Jul 9 at 11:27
7

My previous answer addressed negative arguments -- I believe a well-rounded response to the OP's question should also contain positive arguments and a general look at the purpose of the Book of Mormon (BoM). I have separated the answers for readability.


  1. Positive arguments

In order to pretend to be concise I'll just focus on 3.

A. Stylometry

(Drawn from Book of Mormon Authorship – New Light on Ancient Origins)

Stylometry studies word-prints and offers a means of determining who wrote an anonymous text. Like a fingerprint, people leave traceable patterns in their writing. Very small samples (e.g. a few verses) are insufficient for statistically-significant stylometric analysis, but longer passages are quite relevant and the scientific apparatus is well-studied. Stylometry has been used to determine authorship of a variety of documents, including some of the Federalist Papers.

An author’s word-print has been shown to survive translation, and authors who try to game the system and mimic another author’s style have been betrayed by their own unconscious writing habits—stylometry can catch the ruse. Even when an author has multiple characters who speak and behave differently, the author’s word-print can be discerned.

The Book of Mormon has been subjected to stylometric analysis which has demonstrated, among other things:

  • Neither Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, nor Solomon Spaulding wrote the Book of Mormon
  • The Book of Mormon was written by multiple people. I.e. Nephi, Alma, Mormon, Moroni etc. are not just different characters—their words were written by different people

The authors of the aforementioned Book of Mormon Authorship provide an extensive discussion of the statistical data, and they offer rebuttals to counterarguments that have failed to capture the depth of the stylometric analysis that has been performed.

B. 3 & 8 witnesses

As discussed in other answers, 11 men (besides Joseph Smith) gave testimony of seeing and handling the plates from which the record came—the 3 witnesses said they were given a divine declaration; the 8 witnesses were shown the plates by Joseph Smith. Their testimonies are recorded in the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon (see here & here). 6 of these 11 men later became very hostile to Joseph Smith and left the church (2 would eventually make a major about face and come back). None of the 11 ever denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon.

The following statements of David Whitmer, the last surviving of the 3 witnesses, are worth repeating:

David Whitmer lived outside the Church for 50 years following his excommunication—never to return but never to deny his testimony. As the last surviving Witness, he was often interviewed—and often misquoted. To one man who claimed that David had recanted his testimony, he declared:

“That he may understand me now, if he did not then; and that the world may know the truth, I wish now, standing as it were, in the very sunset of life, and in the fear of God, once for all to make this public statement:

“That I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof, which has so long since been published with that Book, as one of the three witnesses.”

A year before his death in Richmond, Missouri, David responded to two encyclopedias that claimed he and the other Witnesses had denied their testimonies of the Book of Mormon.

He declared: “I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery or Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died affirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.” (source)

C. Chiasmus

Chiasmus is a poetic structure (especially in Hebrew writing) that was unknown to Joseph Smith. In the last few centuries it has been rediscovered throughout the Bible. Chiasmus is also common in the Book of Mormon, although it wasn’t discovered in the Book of Mormon until the 20th century. It had been sitting there all along—a remarkable demonstration of the Semitic origin of the Book of Mormon—without ever being noticed.

One example: the entire chapter of Alma 36 is a giant chiasmus. An A-B-B-A chiasmus may occur by accident, a massive chiasmus like Alma 36 is no accident. Further reading here.


  1. General Arguments

A. The book’s purpose

I’ll outline 3 purposes stated in the introductory pages of the book itself:

From the Title Page of the Book of Mormon:

to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ

From the Introduction:

It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

And again from the introduction to the Book of Mormon:

We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)

Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.

If the veracity of the Book of Mormon were demonstrated to the degree that there was no possibility of disbelief—if that knowledge were obtained without divine aid and spiritual exertion—the book would fail in all 3 purposes noted above. Among other things, the Book of Mormon is a vehicle for gaining faith and obtaining a testimony of the restoration.

To put it into a context more accessible to other Christians – why doesn’t God just show Himself? if God personally appeared to every person, showed them what eternal life looks like, showed them what damnation looks like, and commanded them with thunder and lightning to obey His commandments—rates of obedience would probably go up, but they would go up for the wrong reason. There would be belief without faith, change without commitment, participation without worship, and obedience without transformation.

I believe God wants more than just people’s actions, He wants their hearts. He doesn’t just want people to walk the strait & narrow; He wants to change people in the process.

If God designed a tool specifically for this day and age to teach the principle of revelation to the most skeptical era of human history—and then compelled everyone on pain of ridicule to believe it was true—the tool would be a failure. I believe God cares enough about people’s spiritual progression that He won’t compel them to believe the Book of Mormon.

BYU Professor Robert Millet wrote an excellent article expanding on many of these points—I’ll cite several quotations he compiled:

Hugh Nibley (a BYU professor) wrote:

The words of the prophets cannot be held to the tentative and defective tests that men have devised for them. Science, philosophy, and common sense all have a right to their day in court. But the last word does not lie with them. Every time men in their wisdom have come forth with the last word, other words have promptly followed. The last word is a testimony of the gospel that comes only by direct revelation. Our Father in heaven speaks it, and if it were in perfect agreement with the science of today, it would surely be out of line with the science of tomorrow. Let us not, therefore, seek to hold God to the learned opinions of the moment when he speaks the language of eternity (The World and the Prophets (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M..S., 1987), 134).

From Ezra Taft Benson (former president of the church):

It never has been the case, nor is it so now, that the studies of the learned will prove the Book or Mormon true or false. The origin, preparation, translation, and verification of the truth of the Book of Mormon have all been retained in the hands of the Lord

--

B. When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the facts are not on your side, pound the table

Again from Robert Millet:

Why is it that so many people throughout the world write scathing books, deliver biting addresses, and prepare vicious videos denouncing the Book of Mormon? What is it about...words...which are uplifting and edifying, that invite men and women to come unto Christ and be perfected in Him, that would arouse such bitter antagonism? Once again, if I did not already know, by the quiet whisperings of the Spirit, that the Book of Mormon is truly heaven-sent and indeed Another Testament of Jesus Christ, I would recognize its significance—its power to settle doctrinal disputes, touch hearts, and transform men and women’s lives—by the loud and hostile reactions people tend to have toward it. (ibid)

The anger, venom, and ad-hominem attacks that are ubiquitously brought up in opposition to the BoM certainly give me pause to ask: if the case were so open and shut against the book, would its critics have to resort to these tactics? If the facts were clearly against the BoM, would ad hominems be necessary?

As the old debate adage says: "if the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the facts are not on your side, pound the table."


Conclusion


I must acknowledge, as one who believes the Book of Mormon, that the apologetics above serve as but “flying buttresses” to my belief in the BoM, which is built upon a distinct foundation: “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:” (1 Cor. 2:4).

My confidence in the Book of Mormon comes through applying Moroni’s promise with tremendous effort and sincerity (to clarify a discussion from another question—this isn’t a one-time event—I have received the witness of the Holy Ghost many times):

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10:4-5)

This promise worked for me.

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    "My confidence in the Book of Mormon comes through applying Moroni’s promise with tremendous effort and sincerity (to clarify a discussion from another question—this isn’t a one-time event—I have received the witness of the Holy Ghost many times)" - are you planning on publishing a detailed version of your testimony someday? It's not the 1st time you have me intrigued with winks about otherworldly anecdotes of your past. I know that you deem them sacred, but the experiences of the prophets, apostles and Jesus himself were very sacred too, and that didn't stop them from making them public :-) Jul 10 at 23:59
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator you ask a fair question -- I will think about it. (although I've often wondered why John--the only evangelist who was present on the Mount of Transfiguration--is the evangelist who doesn't write about the event) BTW, I appreciate your efforts to seek out the best arguments on both sides of an issue (as opposed to strawmen). Jul 11 at 0:52
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    Thank you so much for making the point that the Book of Mormon is a book with spiritual purpose, and as such if people were compelled to believe in it through non-spiritual means it would fail its purpose. This is something I've long thought, thanks for the extra and clarifying perspective you've brought me on this point. Jul 11 at 18:24
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Much of the conversation often focuses on Joseph Smith's supposed translation and whether or not it was miraculous. I do not discount those arguments, as they are important, but I feel that there is a much more important topic to touch upon: the spiritual testimonies that the Book of Mormon contain.

To me, who wrote and/or translated the Book of Mormon is of little immediate concern. I am more concerned to let the book speak for itself. There have been genius works written by complete nobodies, and there have been complete duds written by alleged geniuses. I care more about what the text has to say about the Divinity of Jesus Christ than where it came from. If it can support itself on that regard, then clearly it comes from God, for as the psalmist says, "I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.'" (Psalm 16:2, NIV).

Indeed, Professor Hugh Nibley (who is about as "apologetic" as one can get concerning the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ) states:

Indeed, the Book of Mormon is quite impossible on that ground [the thesis that Joseph Smith wrote it]. The fact that it exists proves that somebody wrote it, but not necessarily that Joseph Smith did.... He is an exceedingly unlikely candidate, but where will you find a more likely candidate? [1]

Similarly, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, who members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe to be an modern-day Apostle with the same authority as the apostles in the New Testament, makes the argument (albeit quoting his grandfather) that “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.” [2]

Much of his writing and speaking focuses on that idea: prove the Book of Mormon's testimony of Jesus Christ before trying to prove anything about where it came from. If the book testifies of Christ as profoundly as it does, then no evil man could have written it, and a good man would have only if divinely inspired of God.

For the apologist, this provides two main advantages: (1) showing that the book testifies of Christ is easy, and (2) it is much easier to reason about the book's origin having established that somehow it came from God.

The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ

Before arguing that the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus's divinity, one must first prove that the book talks about him at all. Luckily, this is easy. Citing an essay on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints's website:

The Book of Mormon is another witness of Jesus Christ and confirms the truths found in the Holy Bible. Far from undermining the Bible, the Book of Mormon supports its testimony of Jesus Christ. One passage says that the Book of Mormon “shall establish the truth” of the Bible “and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40).

In its more than 6,000 verses, the Book of Mormon refers to Jesus Christ almost 4,000 times and by 100 different names: “Jehovah,” “Immanuel,” “Holy Messiah,” “Lamb of God,” “Redeemer of Israel,” and so on. [3]

Doing a little bit of math shows that the Book of Mormon mentions Jesus Christ (by some title) on average every 1.7 verses. Why would a book reference Him every other verse, if not to testify of his divinity?

Simply mentioning someone that frequently, in and of itself, does not show that the book favors that person. Perhaps, those references attempt to discredit the Savior, as many critics of the Book of Mormon tend to believe. But the Book of Mormon is clear in this regard as to its purpose. Nephi, the first writer in the text, expresses this clear intent multiple times in his chapters.

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. [4]

4 And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people. And the words which I have written in weakness will be made strong unto them; for it persuadeth them to do good; it maketh known unto them of their fathers; and it speaketh of Jesus, and persuadeth them to believe in him, and to endure to the end, which is life eternal.

5 And it speaketh harshly against sin, according to the plainness of the truth; wherefore, no man will be angry at the words which I have written save he shall be of the spirit of the devil.

6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell. [5]

Thus, we clearly see that the intent of the Book of Mormon is to convince men how to love and worship Jesus Christ and seek Him for a remission of their sins. I have omitted many references to powerful, life-changing sermons and allegories that the book contains. There is no way that someone can read this entire book and honestly claim that it does not lift up their testimony of the Savior and persuade them to do good.

Does a Testimony really imply Divine Inspiration?

Many quickly counter the above by pointing out that there are plenty of men who use Jesus's name for nefarious purpose, ergo simply speaking of Christ is not sufficient evidence of divine inspiration. While true, this counterargument confuses "testifying of Christ" with "speaking of Christ". A testimony necessarily implies an exhortation to repent and follow Jesus Christ. Does following an alleged testimony's counsel lead to happiness and peace in Jesus? Or does their encouragement lead to other paths? If the former, then it is a testimony. If the latter, then one is right to doubt whether it comes of God. Jesus himself warns of this distinction and provides that test in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:16-20, KJV):

15 ¶ Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Jesus's sets His standard clearly. When determining whether some teaching is good and godly, look to see the fruits that will happen if you live it. Will living it bring one closer to God? Or will living it take one down "the way which leadeth to destruction" (Matthew 7:14)? If it convinces one to follow Jesus, then it did not come from a corrupt tree.

With this in mind, let us see what the fruits of following the doctrines contained in the Book of Mormon yield. For brevity's sake, I include only one exhibit: an excerpt from a sermon from Jesus himself in the Book of Mormon.

19 And no unclean thing can enter into his kingdom; therefore nothing entereth into his rest save it be those who have washed their garments in my blood, because of their faith, and the repentance of all their sins, and their faithfulness unto the end.

20 Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. [6]

Here, the Master explains the doctrine and the fruits--and ultimately the central message of the Book of Mormon--very plainly. Faith, repentance, and baptism will lead to sanctification and standing spotless before God. If that is not an encouragement to follow Jesus, then I do not know what is.

The doctrines cannot simultaneously convince one to follow Jesus and to follow the Adversary. But clearly, the Book of Mormon expressly encourages its readers to follow Jesus Christ. No evil man, whether for personal gain or otherwise, would write a book so focused on following Jesus. No good man would do it and claim it to be revelation unless he was inspired and commanded of God to do so.

God Has Revealed the Divinity of the Book of Mormon to Millions, and He Can Reveal It To You, Too!

An important piece of theology and a belief crucial to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the concept of "personal revelation". For them, God is not a silent or passive figure in their lives. When they pray, they do not only expect God to listen to and answer prayers, but they expect him to respond and converse with them.

In a demonstration of this faith, Moroni (the final writer in the Book of Mormon) tells those who read the book to pray and ask God if it is divinely inspired. He asserts that physical arguments are incapable of granting a spiritual testimony, just as Jesus taught Peter in Matthew 16-17 ("And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.", KJV). Conversion to true Christianity has to come via revelation from the Father. In this vein, here is Moroni's counsel:

3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.

7 And ye may know that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, according to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever. [7]

Moroni promises that if you ponder the writing in the Book of Mormon, ask God with faith, and having real intent (i.e. the intent to really repent and change one's life to better follow Christ's teachings in the Bible and the Book of Mormon), then the Holy Ghost will reveal it unto you.

Millions have untaken "Moroni's challenge", so to speak. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints currently has some 16 million members, and although not every one will have prayed about the divinity of the Book of Mormon specifically, my estimate would be you could ask a huge portion of them (likely >50%) about their experience doing so, and they could describe it to you.

God has revealed the divinity of the Book of Mormon to millions, and can do the same for you.

A Personal Disclaimer and Testimony

In my life, I have gone from aggressive critic of the Book of Mormon, to hesitant apologetic, and eventually to ardent believer. In the above, I highlight apologetic arguments that have been particularly impactful for me. For years, I was never sold on the historical apologetic arguments in favor of the divinity of the Book of Mormon. For a long time, one of my favorite hobbies was attacking it on those very grounds. But I eventually realized that despite my arguments, the Book still existed. After some time, I finally read it. Despite my furious efforts to find contradictions, by the end of it, I could not shake the fact that it had indeed grown my faith in Jesus Christ and his role as my personal Savior just as much as the Old and New Testaments had. I had to humble myself and ask God if the book had come from him. I immediately received a powerful, strong witness that he had indeed sent it to the Earth for that very purpose. Nothing can take that experience from me. My continued study of the Book of Mormon and Bible have taken me from the hesitant apologetic to believer in Jesus Christ that I am today.

References

[1] Hugh Nibley. The Book of Mormon as a Record of Military Strategy. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/hugh-nibley/book-mormon-record-military-strategy/

[2] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. Safety for the Soul. https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2009/10/safety-for-the-soul?lang=eng

[3] Gospel Topics. The Book of Mormon. https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/book-of-mormon?lang=eng

[4] 2 Nephi 25:23. The Book of Mormon. https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/25.23?lang=eng&clang=eng#p23

[5] 2 Nephi 33:4-6. The Book of Mormon. https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/33?lang=eng

[6] 3 Nephi 27:19-20. The Book of Mormon. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/3-ne/27?lang=eng

[7] Moroni 10:3-7. The Book of Mormon. https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/bofm/moro/10?lang=eng

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    Great answer and documentation
    – depperm
    Jul 8 at 19:55
  • Welcome to Christianity SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Jul 9 at 3:53
  • Is the book testifying of Christ a very strong argument at all? I feel like that's a somewhat circular argument, in that someone would have to believe in the divinity of Christ in the first place to take it as axiomatic that a book that testifies of Christ is necessarily a good one, or that a man that believes in Christ must be a good one. And even if you DO believe in the divinity of Christ, there's still a lot of room to acknowledge that not everyone who testifies of Christ is good, or every piece of literature that does so is good or divinely inspired.
    – TKoL
    Jul 13 at 8:33
  • America is full of a lot of profiteers who use Jesus name to prop up their business model. You can believe in the divinity of Christ AND see that that's the case. That's why this line bothers me so: If the book testifies of Christ as profoundly as it does, then no evil man could have written it
    – TKoL
    Jul 13 at 8:34
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    @TKoL I agree that there are too many people that use Jesus's name for nefarious purposes. The distinction there is the difference between talking about the Christ and testifying of the Christ. One is just opinion. The other is an exhortation to repent and follow him based on personal experience. (Un)fortunately, Jesus gets his work done through imperfect people, and that's why I think it's important to focus on the teachings themselves, rather than the vessel they come through. Perhaps a better way to say that line is "no evil man could have written it to lead others away from Christ." Jul 14 at 0:11
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I offer this answer as a supplement to the other answers. I do not present a complete accounting of apologetic arguments here; the other answers (especially put together) do a much better job of that. Instead, I wanted to add one more thought on the subject.

Origin

Whatever else the Book of Mormon is or isn't, the fact is that it exists, and its origin must be accounted for. This may be less an apologetic argument of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and more of a "challenge for the opposing side," but if one does not accept the account of divine origin that Joseph Smith provided for the Book of Mormon, then any successful argument against it should account for its origin. I'm not terribly familiar with the non-divine origin theories that exist, so I can't comment on them specifically. However, other answers posted here present a compelling case that Joseph Smith lacked the knowledge and capability of authoring the book, and any non-divine origin theory must also account for the stylometry findings (also presented in other answers) demonstrating multiple authorship of the book and lack of compelling stylometry attribution of the book to Joseph Smith's associates and contemporaries.

As pointed out in other answers, the Book of Mormon is a very complex book, with a good deal of "world-building" to use a modern term.

(I will acknowledge one study I have seen that used stylometry to attribute the Book of Mormon's authorship to Sidney Rigdon, a close associate of Joseph Smith. If I remember right, this 2008 study assumed that the Book of Mormon was authored by one of a limited list of people and attributed authorship to whomever came closest in style. It did not allow for authors outside of that list of people. A rebuttal study used the same methodology of that study to show Sidney Rigdon as the probably author of the Federalist Papers, despite not being born when they were written.)

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    Supernatural origin does not entail divine origin. Demonic origin is also a possibility. Jul 11 at 19:17
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    Some sources I think would improve this a bit, if able to find them online
    – depperm
    Jul 11 at 19:31
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    A claim of non-divine supernatural origin would also need to provide a reason for such an originator to bring forth such a book. For demonic origin specifically, the book bears such powerful testimony of Jesus Christ as Savior and Son of God, it would be hard for me to imagine that the book is productive to any demonic goals. Jul 11 at 19:33
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator wouldn't you be able to judge a book contents to see if it is demonic (pushes the reader away from Christ or his teachings) or heavenly(draw the reader to Christ and his teachings)?
    – depperm
    Jul 11 at 19:35
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    @depperm - yes, I think that's a doable exercise. Jul 11 at 19:37
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As the question is about apologetics it may be best to address apologetic arguments against the Book of Mormon (please note the evidence is not overwhelming or comprehensive, this is meant to point out that evidences do exist if willing to look). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strongly encourages spiritual conversion as opposed to relying on physical evidence. Below each number item links to an apologetic argument against in regards to the question mentioned in OP related link, between the numbered items are responses.

  1. Convenient absence of the original 'golden plates':

    The scriptures suggest two reasons the Book of Mormon gold plates were not made available to the public: the first is that the Lord refused to allow men to use these sacred plates for commercial or personal benefit; the second, and most important, was so the Lord could test the faith of all who receive the record.

  2. Copied sections:

    • Book of Mormon Plagiarized Bible? apologist response

      proposes as one scenario that, instead of Joseph or Oliver looking at a Bible ... that God was simply able to provide the page of text from the King James Bible to Joseph's mind and then Joseph was free to alter the text as would be more comprehensible/comfortable to his 19th century, Northeastern, frontier audience....If Joseph or anyone else actually tried to plagiarize the Book of Mormon, critics have failed to show the source of the remaining 93% (when all ['copied'] texts are removed). A 100% non-biblical book of scripture wouldn't have been much more difficult to produce... Joseph could choose to render similar (or identical) material using King James Bible language if that adequately represented the text's intent.

  3. Huge numbers of historical anachronisms

    • Animals in the Book of Mormon Challenges and Perspectives (quite comprehensive)
    • Horses in the Book of Mormon an apologist response
    • Hard Evidence of Ancient American Horses
    • Silkworms an apologist response

      Linen and silk are textiles mentioned in the Book of Mormon (Alma 4:6). Neither fabric as we now know them was found in Mesoamerica at the coming of the Spaniards. The problem might be no more than linguistic. The redoubtable Bernal Diaz, who served with Cortez in the initial wave of conquest, described native Mexican garments made of "henequen which is like linen." The fiber of the maguey plant, from which henequen was manufactured, closely resembles the flax fiber used to make European linen. Several kinds of "silk," too, were reported by the conquerors. One kind was of thread spun from the fine hair on the bellies of rabbits. Padre Motolinia also reported the presence of a wild silkworm, although he thought the Indians did not make use of the cocoons. But other reports indicate that wild silk was spun and woven in certain areas of Mesoamerica. Another type came from the pod of the ceiba tree.

    • apologist responses Swords of iron, steel, copper in North America and Steel in the Book of Mormon
  4. Lack of genetic and linguistic connections between pre-Columbian America and ancient Israel:

  5. Almost total absence of corroborating archaeological evidence:

    As the LDS doesn't have an official stance on where the Book of Mormon primarily took place, providing evidence for or against is difficult. The prevailing theory is the setting took place in the central America region.1 Most archaeologic evidence then is intended to show ancient civilizations with technology similar to those mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

    SE Questions/Answers about this:

  6. Reformed Egyptian:

  7. Inaccuracy of Smith's other 'translations':

  8. Stuart Ferguson-Mormon 'archaeologist', couldn't find evidence

    Stuart Ferguson was a lawyer and never studied archaeology. On his trip there are two cases that might happen:

    1. Found evidence

      • Anything found wouldn't necessarily imply evidence of Book of Mormon location, especially since the LDS church does not have an official stance on where it took place. It could also be misinterpreted because he had no formal training
      • If he did find something would anyone be willing to accept 'evidence' found by a lawyer pretending to be an archaeologist?
    2. Didn't find evidence (case presented/what happened)

      • Looking in wrong place: Without an official stance on where the Book of Mormon took place looking for specific evidence of the Book of Mormon would be difficult especially for a hobbyist
      • Didn't know how to look:

        His associates with scientific training and thus more sophistication in the pitfalls involving intellectual matters could never draw him away from his narrow view of "research."2

      • Didn't recognize what was there

        April 1953, when [Stuart] and [John Sorenson] did the first archaeological reconnaissance of central Chiapas, which defined the Foundation's work for the next twenty years, [Stuart's] concern was to ask if local people had found any figurines of "horses," rather than to document the scores of sites we discovered and put on record for the first time.2

1 Book of Mormon Geography and an apologist article Where Did Book of Mormon Events Take Place

2 Stuart Ferguson apologist response

3 What Did the Golden Plates Look Like?

4 2 Nephi 27:10-11 and Ether 4:4-5

3
  • An additional thought relating to your #1. The Lord makes very clear both within the text of the Book of Mormon ( 2 Nephi 27:10-11, Ether 4:4-5) and in instruction to Joseph Smith (see footnote 17) that Joseph is not to disturb the second half of the gold plates, because they contain visions that would be later translated. The Lord isn't done with the plates, so it makes sense that he would hide them again until his "due time". Jul 13 at 21:01
  • 1
    @AndrewSansom I'll update the answer, but in the future feel free to edit community wiki answers. A community wiki answer does not assign rep to any user
    – depperm
    Jul 13 at 23:45
  • I hadn't even realized it was a community wiki! Thanks for doing that update for me. @depperm Jul 14 at 0:13

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