Most of the individual book of Mormon, the thirteenth book within the collective Book of Mormon, tells the bloody story of the American conflicts between the Nephites and Lamanites over the course of approximately a thousand years. This dramatic story comes to a climax around the year AD 421 in their final and greatest war on the hill called Cumorah located in western New York. In the end, the savage Lamanites destroyed the Nephites. Though the idea is completely unsubstantiated by DNA or any other historical evidence, Mormons claim that the descendants of the Lamanites are today's American Indians.
Mormons claim that the history of these early American Hebrew civilizations was written on gold tablets and that Mormon, the Nephite prophet and warrior, gave them to his son Moroni prior to the last great battle. During the final war, Mormon was killed and Moroni, the last living Nephite, went into hiding.
Before Moroni died, he buried these gold tablets on the New York Hill Cumorah, where they remained untouched for fourteen hundred years until unearthed by Joseph Smith. It is claimed that Joseph Smith was given the Book of Mormon gold tablets by the angel Moroni, translated them, and had them published in 1830.
Another Testament of Jesus Christ
The most startling event in the Book of Mormon for Christians is the supposed appearance of Jesus Christ among the Nephites in America after his resurrection. To emphasize this American appearance, the LDS Church in 1982 added the subtitle Another Testament of Jesus Christ to the Book of Mormon. Mormonism now calls the Book of Mormon the fifth Gospel, placing it alongside the four biblical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Is the Book of Mormon True?
Because not a single person, place, or event unique to the Book of Mormon has been proved to have existed, Mormons emphasize that a subjective heart experience-what they call a burning in the bosom-proves the authenticity and truth of the Book of Mormon. For the Latter-day Saints, it is simply a matter of faith-a witness of the spirit-not objective facts, that proves the Book of Mormon's authenticity. The LDS Church exhorts people to study the Book of Mormon and claims that they will feel its power and know its divinity. Mormonism highlights Moroni 10:4 in encouraging people to read the Book of Mormon:
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.
Yet a close examination of the objective historical and archaeological evidence and the internal content of the Book of Mormon will quickly dampen any subjective feelings and impulses that a person may have. Any archaeological scholar will affirm that absolutely no physical evidence in America substantiates with scholarly integrity that early American civilizations of millions of people ever existed as described in the Book of Mormon-unlike the evidence of biblical times in the Middle East.
Initially, Mormonism believed much of the Book of Mormon historical stories actually took place in upper New York, around the region of the Hill Cumorah, where the gold plates were claimed to have been unearthed by Joseph Smith. But because of the total lack of archaeological or historical evidence that this was true, Mormons are now attempting to identify the ancient Mayan ruins located in southern Mexico and Central America as a possible geographical alternative. In fact, LDS travel agencies even promote tours of the Book of Mormon lands in Mexico and Central America.
In the end, however, all the LDS archaeological and geographical claims are simply guesswork. This leaves the so-called historical events described in the Book of Mormon in significant question and under real suspicion. Even the Smithsonian Institution declares that there is absolutely no direct connection between the archaeology of the New World and the story of the Book of Mormon. As someone who has studied the historicalgeographical context of the Bible in Israel for one year and has traveled extensively throughout the land of Turkey for almost two decades, I can attest that the biblical narrative-in contrast to that of the Book of Mormon-can be strongly substantiated by hard geographical and archaeological evidence.
Dr. Craig Blomberg also throws great doubt on the authenticity of the content of the Book of Mormon, stating that much of its historical context fits in the religious climate and theological concerns of the early 1800s, not during the time that it claims to have occurred:
The Book of Mormon is full of the widespread use, supposedly written in Old Testament times, of New Testament doctrines, language, concepts and even specific verses. One of the great theological flaws in Mormonism is its Christianizing of the Old Testament.