Some critics may claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. However, the Book of Mormon makes many predictions which can be tested through archaeology, sociological records, and historical research. How does the Book of Mormon fare when compared to recorded archaeological finds and sociological records? Here are 19 times when the Book of Mormon correctly predicts what archaeology is still discovering.
Golden plates with writing in the Americas – Golden plates with writing (Mayan hieroglyphs) have been found in Meso America. The people of that time would throw the plates into the deep sinkholes filled with water, believing them to be gateways to the afterlife. (Johnson D. , 2011)
Plates hidden in stone boxes – Joseph Smith reported recovering the “Gold Plates” from which the Book of Mormon was translated from a stone box hidden in the ground. Writing on metal plates, then hiding the metal in stone boxes was completely unheard of in Joseph Smith’s time. Beginning in 1926, so many metal documents secured in stone have been discovered that it’s now considered commonplace, particularly in the time and location of Lehi. (Wright, 1981)
Large populations – The Book of Mormon predicts large populations at the peak of Nephite / Lamanate civilizations. For a long time, people assumed the population in Mesoamerica was not large enough to support these claims, but only recently technology means just one area of Guatemala could have held 15 million people alone during the periods described as the height of the Lehite cultures after Christ. (Clynes, 2018)
Common structures – The Book of Mormon predicts raised roads and towers as commonplace structures. These structures are now detected in high-tech scans of the Mayan ruins in Guatemala. (Clynes, 2018)
The Lands of __ – Ancient Mayan “maps” or place names differentiated between the settled places, “lands of ___,” and all else as “wilderness” just as Book of Mormon authors do. (Tokovinine, 2013)
Volcanism in the records of Native Americans – The Book of Mormon describes a massive volcanic eruption and earthquakes associated with the time of the death of Christ (roughly 35 AD.) Followed by a period of rapid peaceful growth. Spanish explorers found the Mayans’ records included a description of a massive earthquake and darkened sun in the first century AD, (Veytia & Hemingway, 2000) while modern researchers also find ample evidence of the eruption and a rapid increase in building afterward. (Fash & Lujan, 2009)
Founding Family Origin Story – Mayan legend tells of a family with 7 who settled Guatemala and who were stuck at the waters’ edge until the younger brother encouraged them to cross: (Maxwell & Hill, 2006) “In its mytho-heroic origin narrative, the Xajil Chronicle recounts this conversation as the seven founding families of highland Guatemala were at the seashore wondering how to cross the ocean to their promised land: “We are two of the children, we are the top, we are the head, we are the first warriors, the seven amaq’s. And you are my younger brother.” The younger brother urges his elders to cross the ocean and seize their destinies rather than collapse and sleep (suffer defeat) at the water’s edge.” (Magleby, 2015)
Infant baptism among Native Americans – At the end of the Book of Mormon, Mormon writes to his son, Moroni, about infant baptism which had begun among the people. Friar Diego de Landa wrote about his observations in the region of central America where the events of the Book of Mormon are thought to have taken place. De Landa reports witnessing the baptism and blessing of children, and that he only saw it in that region and nowhere else in the new world. (Landa, Sec. XXVI. Method of Baptism in Yucatan; How it Was Celebrated, 2012)
Scriptures on Metal Plates – People in ancient Israel writing scriptures on metal plates was an unheard-of absurdity in Joseph’s time, but in modern times, metal plates or scrolls with religious writing dating to precisely Lehi’s time have been discovered. (Lopez-Ruiz, 2015)
Elephants known to Native Americans – The oldest texts in the Book of Mormon mention Elephants present in their lands. Elephants were once thought to be non-existent in the Americas, then extinct 10000 years ago, then 7000 years ago, then 6000 years ago. However, native American tradition from people around the Gulf of Mexico tell of giant beasts with long noses that could trample people and uproot trees. (Swanton, 1911) With similar traditions among groups from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, some scholars have been persuaded elephants and man were interacting in the Americas as recently as 1000 B.C., falling squarely into Jaredite times. (Johnson L. H., 1952)
Steel in ancient times – Nephi describes having “Steel.” Even in Joseph’s time it was a well-known “fact” that Steel was a modern invention. However, in modern days Joseph Smith has been supported again by the discovery of “steeling iron” as far back as the 10th century BC, including at least one discovery of such hardened iron in northern Israel, long believed to be the home of Lehi. (Maddin, Muhly, & Wheeler, 1977) and a carburized iron sword near Jericho. (Shanks, 1986)
Fortifications in the Americas – The Book of Mormon describes walled fortifications. This was nonsense to Joseph’s contemporaries who often berated Mormonism for believing what they saw as self-evident – that no such structures existed. In 1970 Tulane University researchers discovered huge defensive fortifications around Mayan cities dating to Book of Mormon times. (Webster, 1976)
Cement structures in the Americas – The Book of Mormon describes “Cement” structures. Yet again, antagonists ridiculed Mormons for believing what was “well known” for being false. Native Americans lived in tents and hogans, after all. However, once again, time proves Joseph Smith’s translation right as widespread cement use has been discovered in Mesoamerica. (Hyman, 1970)
Corresponding calendars – By Nephite reckoning and by prophesy, the Nephites says it was 600 years from Lehi’s departure during Zedekiah’s first year as king and the birth of Jesus Christ. However, our best historical estimates show around 592 – 593 years between those dates. However, if the Nephites used Mayan counting for their years, 600 years would be about 592 solar years – the correct interval between Zedekiah and Christ, and a strong connection between Nephites and the larger Mayan culture in which they may have been operating. (Sorenson, 1985)
Sunken city predicted and discovered in Mesoamerica – Anthropologist John Sorensen long championed the Meso America theory of the Book of Mormon. In 1985, As part of his publications, he suggested that for his theory to be right there would need to be a sunken city (the one the Nephites called Jerusalem) that had been submerged around the time of Christ on the south side of lake Atitlan. It was a very audacious claim in its specificity. In 1999 archaeologists discovered a sunken city off the southern shore of Lake Atitlan, where recovered artifacts place it from around the time of Christ, when a sudden eruption likely caused a rapid change in the level of the lake, just as described in the Book of Mormon. (Sorensen, 2013)
Mayan expert identifies correspondences with Book of Mormon – The Book of Mormon describes a people who use a complex writing system (possibly hieroglyphic), books, a calendar, specialized markets, and which eventually descended into a pantheistic religion, state institutions, cities, public works, a shift in popular religion around 250 AD, record keeping for rulers, and a group of foreign kings ruling over a larger, established population. Dr. Michael Coe, in his book on the Maya, identifies all of these circumstances in Meso America during the appropriate time periods. (Dale, 2018) (Coe & Houston, 2015)
Towers and priestly gardens in the Americas – The Book of Mormon tells of a prophet named Nephi who visits his garden off a main road in a city, where he climbed into his personal tower and began preaching to people on their way to the central market. This is incongruous to our western standard of urbanization pushing agriculture out to the edges of the city and beyond, with no referential cross-section for preachers on towers and personal gardens. However, again in Mesoamerica we find not only homes with towers built on them, (Idell, 1956) but also that the center of the cities (where the chief markets would be) were home to special “gardens” which were kept especially for medicinal and ornamental plants related to offerings and healing and which were managed by the priests and noble class, such as Nephi. (Mora, 2012) Here we find the cross section of priest, tower, and garden perfectly realized.
City of Bountiful in Americas – The people of Lehi use the name “Bountiful” for their cities twice. Once in the old world and once again in the new. The Pre-Columbian drama, Rabinal Achi, places an ancient Mayan city named “Bountiful” in the center of its map. (Tedlock, 2003)
Beekeeping in Ancient America – The Book of Mormon claims that the people in ancient America would keep bees. Critics call this an anachronism because it is widely believed that the Europeans brought honey bees to the Americas in the 1600s and taught Native Americans how to keep bees, which they called “White Man’s Fly.” However, very recent discoveries show Native Americans in Guatemala were keeping bees during Book of Mormon times after all. (Zralka, Helmke, Sotelo, & Koszkul, 2018)
Clynes, T. (2018, February 1). Exclusive: Laser Scans Reveal Maya “Megalopolis” Below Guatemalan Jungle. Retrieved from National Geographic: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/maya-laser-lidar-guatemala-pacunam/
Coe, M., & Houston, S. (2015). The Maya. London: Thames & Hudson.
Dale, B. E. (2018, November 1). The Book of Mormon, the Maya and Dr. Michael Coe. Retrieved from Oh That Clever Kid Joseph Smith: http://www.ohthatcleverkidjosephsmith.com/?p=370
Fash, W. L., & Lujan, L. L. (2009). The Art of Urbanism: How Mesoamerican Kingdoms Represented Themselves in Architecture and Imagery. Harvard University Press.
Hyman, D. S. (1970). A Study of the Calcareous Cements in Prehispanic Mesoamerican Building Construction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.
Idell, A. (1956). The Bernal Diaz Chronicles. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.
Johnson, D. (2011, April 30). Ancient Gold Plates in Mesoamerica. Retrieved from Deseret News: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/705371752/Ancient-gold-plates-in-Mesoamerica.html
Johnson, L. H. (1952). Men and Elephants in America. The Scientific Monthly, pp. 220-221.
Landa, D. d. (2012). Sec. XXVI. Method of Baptism in Yucatan; How it Was Celebrated. In D. d. Landa, Yucatan Before and After the Conquest (W. Gates, Trans., pp. 42-45). New York: Dover Publications, Inc.
Lopez-Ruiz, C. (2015). Near Eastern Precedents of the “Orphic” Tablets: The Phoenician Missing Link. Journal of Ancient Near Eastern Religions, 52-91.
Maddin, R., Muhly, D. J., & Wheeler, S. T. (1977, October). How the Iron Age Began. Scientific American, p. 127.
Magleby, K. (2015, February 17). Kaqchikel Chronicles. Retrieved from Book of Mormon Resources: http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/2015/02/kaqchikel-chronicles.html
Maxwell, M. J., & Hill, M. R. (2006). Kaqchikel Chronicles: The Definitive Edition. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Mora, A. P. (2012). The History of Landscape and Gardens in the Maya Cities. World in Denmark Conference City PLANTastic, 9 – 10.
Shanks, H. (1986). Antiquities Director Confronts Problems and Controversies. Biblical Archaeology Review, 33, 35.
Sorensen, J. L. (2013). Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute.
Sorenson, J. (1985). An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon. Deseret Book Company.
Swanton, J. R. (1911). Indian Tribes of the Lower Mississippi Valleyand Adjacent Coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Washington: Government Printing Office.
Tedlock, D. (2003). Rabinal Achi: A Mayan Drama of War and Sacrifice. London: Oxford University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=GOHhBwAAQBAJ&pg=PT232&lpg=PT232&dq=%22a+mayan+drama+of+war+and+sacrifice%22+%22while+rabinal+lords%22&source=bl&ots=GC6yF5dfM6&sig=ad190pveKTiu2F8P7UjXRzQ04pc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiF2PnNkuncAhVr4IMKHdBYBf8Q6AEwAHoECAMQAQ
Tokovinine, A. (2013). Place and Identity in Classic Maya Narratives. In Dumbarton Oaks Pre-Columbian Art and Archaeology Studies Series 37 (pp. 10, 43). Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Veytia, M., & Hemingway, D. (2000). Ancient America Rediscovered. Springville: Cedar Fort.
Webster, D. L. (1976). Defensive Earthworks at Becan, Campeche, Mexico: Implications for Mayan Warfare. Middle American Research Institute, 108.
Wright, H. C. (1981). Ancient Burials of Metal Documents in Stone Boxes: Their Implications for Library History. The Journal of Library History, 48-70.
Zralka, J., Helmke, C., Sotelo, L., & Koszkul, W. (2018, September). The Discovery of a Beehive and the Identification of Apiaries Among the Ancient Maya. Latin American Antiquity, 514-531. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1017/laq.2018.21