Responses to the Book of Mormon
For years we have heard from the missionaries that the Smithsonian Institute and National Geographic have both corroborated the historicity of the Book of Mormon. I’ve been told by countless missionaries all I had to do was contact them for the information so that is what I did via e-mail. The following are their responses to my inquiry.
Dear Sir or Madam;
I am looking for information from the Smithsonian Institute that will help me verify that you do/do not have anthropological evidence that there was a large civilization that supposedly existed in the Americas that the Book of Mormon claims. I’ve been told by countless people that your organization holds maps, etc of said finds. I’ve also been shown letters from you to other people that there is no such evidence of the Mormon Church. Any help you could provide me with would be greatly appreciated!
Life After Ministries
Dear Michelle Grim:
Thank you for contacting the National Geographic Society.
The National Geographic Society has not examined the historical claims of the Book of Mormon. We know of no archaeological evidence that corroborates the ancient history of the Western Hemisphere as presented in the Book of Mormon, nor are we aware of empirical verification of the places named in the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is clearly a work of great spiritual power; millions have read and revered its words, first published by Joseph Smith in 1830.
Yet Smith’s narration is not generally taken as a scientific source for the history of the Americas. Archaeologists and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere’s past, and the Society does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon.
In fact, students of prehistoric America by and large conclude that the New World’s earliest inhabitants arrived from Asia via the Bering land bridge.
(Lower sea levels during ice ages exposed the continental shelf beneath Bering Strait, allowing generations of ancient Siberians to migrate east.) National Geographic carried the article “Hunt for the First Americans” and the map supplement “The Dawn of Humans: Peopling of the Americas” in the December 2000 issue, perhaps on your library’s shelf.
You might want to write the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and ask for their latest statement on this topic. You can write the museum in care ofP.O. Box 37012, Washington, D.C.
I hope this information proves helpful.
Dear Sir or Madam;
I am looking for information from the Smithsonian Institue that will help me verify that you do/do not have anthropological evidence that there was a large civilization that supposedly existed in the Americas that the Book of Mormon claims. I’ve been told by countless people that your organization holds maps, etc of said finds. I’ve also been shown letters from you to other people that there is no such evidence of the Mormon Church. Any help you could provide me with would be greatly appreciated!
Life After Ministries
This letter from the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology is in response to your inquiry regarding the Book of Mormon.
The Smithsonian considers the Book of Mormon a religious document and not a scientific guide. The Smithsonian Institution has never used it in archaeological research and has found no archaeological evidence to support its claims.
You might wish to consult the following publications:
Coe, Michael D. and Rex Koontz. Mexico. 5th rev. and expanded ed. Thames & Hudson, 2002. (A well-written, authoritative summary of Mexican archeology.)
Coe, Michael D. The Maya. 6th fully rev. ed. Thames & Hudson, 1999. (A general summary of the archeology of the Maya.)
Coe, Michael D. and Richard A. Diehl. In the Land of the Olmecs. 2 vols. Univ. of Texas Press, 1980.
Fagan, Brian. Ancient North America: The Archaeology of a Continent. 3nd ed. Thames & Hudson, 2000.
Kingdoms of Gold, Kingdoms of Jade: The Americas Before Columbus. Thames & Hudson, 1991.
Freidel, David, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker. Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand years on the Shaman’s Path. 1st Quill ed. William Morrow & Co., 1995.
Hammond, Norman. Ancient Maya Civilization. RutgersUniv. Press, 1982.
Hunter, Milton R. and Thomas S. Ferguson. Ancient America and the Book of Mormon. Kolob Book Co., 1950. (The Mormon point of view is presented.)
Jennings, Jesse D. Prehistory of North America. 2nd ed. McGraw Hill, 1989.
Jennings, Jesse, editor. Vol. 1. Ancient North Americans. Vol. 2. Ancient South Americans. W. H. Freeman, 1983.
Lamberg-Karlovsky, C. C. and Jeremy A. Sabloff. Ancient Civilizations; The Near East and Mesoamerica. 2nd ed. Waveland Press, 1995. (Chapter 4 discusses the first Mesoamerican civilization and its origin. Very readable.)
Larson, Stan. Quest for the Gold Plates: Thomas Stuart Ferguson’s Archaeological Search for The Book of Mormon. Freethinker Press, 1996.
Marcus, Joyce. Mesoamerican Writing Systems: Propaganda, Myth, and History in Four Ancient Civilizations. PrincetonUniversity Press, 1992.
Papers of the New World Archaeological Foundation. BrighamYoungUniversity, 1952-. (Published results of archeological investigations in Mesoamerica by the Foundation, supported by the Mormon Church.)
Riley, Carroll L. et al., editors. Man Across the Sea: Problems of Pre-Columbian Contacts. Univ. of Texas Press, 197l. (A collection of articles, mostly by well-qualified specialists, concerning transoceanic contacts.)
Sabloff, Jeremy A. The New Archaeology and the Ancient Maya. Scientific American Library, 1994.
Sabloff, JeremyA.Cities of Ancient Mexico: Reconstructing a Lost World. Thames & Hudson, 1990.
Schele, Linda, and David Freidel. A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya. William Morrow & Co., 1992.
Schele, Linda. The Inscription on Stela 5 and Its Altar. Copán Mosaics Project, 1987.
Wauchope, Robert. Lost Tribes and Sunken Continents. Univ. of Chicago Press, 1974. (Chapter 4 covers Mormon theories, setting them in the context of other nonscientific schemes. Author is a well-qualified specialist on Mexican archeology.)
Williams, Stephen. Fantastic Archaeology: The Wild Side of North American Prehistory. Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1991. (See the chapter “Archaeology and Religion: Where Angels Fear to Tread.”)
Thank you for your interest in the Smithsonian Institution.
Department of Anthropology
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