This article, entitled The Scientific Search for Nephite Remains, from the Institute for Religious Research contains a large number of quotes from Ray T. Matheny. Matheny earned his BA and Master's degrees at Brigham Young University in 1960 and 1962, and a PhD degree in anthropology from the University of Oregon in 1968. He was involved in many archaeological expeditions to Mayan cities. He was closely connected with the New World Archaeology Foundation and with the establishment of the BYU Field School in Southern Utah. He passed away in 2020 and was BYU Professor of Anthropology and an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS).
The article contains quotes from Professor Matheny on several topics related to reconciling geographic and anthropological claims found in the Book of Mormon (as well as corroborating statements from Joseph Smith and past Mormon presidents and elders) with data collected within the fields of Geography, Anthropology, and Archaeology.
I recommend the entire article (for more detail) but am asking only regarding the following quotes which the article attributes to Matheny and which summarize his responses to the Book of Mormon's claims of various industries such as an Iron Industry, Old World Agriculture, and Old World Domestic Animals being present in pre-Columbian MesoAmerica:
Regarding the Iron Industry:
No evidence has been found in the new world for a ferrous metallurgical industry dating to pre-Columbian times. And so this is a king-size kind of problem, it seems to me, for so-called Book of Mormon archeology. The evidence is absent.
Regarding Old World Agriculture:
There's a whole system of production of wheat and barley ... It's a specialized production of food. You have to know something to make flax [the source of linen], and especially in tropical climates. Grapes and olives ... all these are cultures that are highly developed and amount to systems, and so the Book of Mormon is saying that these systems existed here.
Matheny noted that a 1983 Science magazine article describing barley found in a pre-Columbian setting is wrongly claimed as support for the Book of Mormon because the grain described was not a domesticated old world barley.
Regarding Old World Domestic Animals:
You don't just have a cow or a goat or a horse as an esoteric pet or something. There is a system of raising these things, and the picture that is painted for me as I read this, and others too, is that we have [in Book of Mormon portrayals] ... domestic animals and so forth in the New World.
I mean in Alma there [18:10; 20:6,8] , you know he's using the stable there preparing the horses for King Lamoni, and also he's preparing the King's chariots because they're going to take a trip from one city to another over the royal highway. And also the horses are pastured, no less. So there are contexts within the Book of Mormon itself. These are not just substitutions, it seems to me, but the authors of the Book of Mormon there are providing the context, they're not trying to describe a tape deer or something else, it seems to me. This is a weak way to try to explain the presence of these names in the Book of Mormon.
This article began by acknowledging that archaeology cannot directly prove or disprove the spiritual claims of the Book of Mormon or the Bible. However, it can evaluate the historical claims which both books make.
Matheny is quoted in the article as having said:
"I would say in evaluating the Book of Mormon that it has no place in the New World whatsoever."
This viewpoint is echoed by the highly respected Mesoamerican archaeologist Michael Coe:
The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early immigrants to our hemisphere.
What impact is made within LDS theology regarding the spiritual content of the Book of Mormon when the historical claims therein are shown by both secular and Mormon scholars to be factually unsupported?