Another noted LDS apologist, researcher and author, Brant A. Gardner, has likewise conceded that there is no conclusive evidence for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. On a comment thread at the Interpreter’s website, Gardner freely admitted that no conclusive evidence has been discovered that would definitively show that the Book of Mormon is a historical account of real events and people.
“There is not conclusive proof, but there is evidence which has been sufficient for many to accept the hypothesis.”
“There is a lot of evidence, and for those of us who work with that evidence, the cumulation is becoming impressive. None of it is conclusive–but again so little is.”
There is a lot of evidence, or supposed evidence, for Big Foot and Nessie, but no matter how large that mountain of evidence grows, no one in their right mind is going to accept the hypothesis that Big Foot or Nessie are real without some sort of evidence that borders on certainty—DNA, clear photographs, direct video surveillance, large numbers of sightings, remains that can be forensically studied, many footprints, capture, or the ability to see it first-hand. In the meantime, Big Foot and Nessie remain fanciful ideas in the minds of a few, but hardly objective realities. (Is it telling that many Mormons apparently believe in Big Foot?)
Furthermore, and more intriguingly, Gardner notes that not only is there no conclusive evidence for the Book of Mormon, but it is unlikely that it even exists, for many reasons:
“There is much that we do and believe (religion aside) that is based on evidence rather than conclusive proof.”
“As for writing being found, it is cause for celebration when any new text is found in Mesoamerica because they are pretty rare.”
“The painted texts such as those found in San Bartolo only serve to show us how much was lost.”
“Again, there is a difference between evidence and conclusive proof. There is so little conclusive proof about much.”
“I wouldn’t say that we would never find anything with a Book of Mormon name, but I think it unlikely simply because of the problems of preservation. The corpus of texts from Book of Mormon times is significantly smaller than those from post-Book of Mormon times.”
“The problem is the idea of conclusive evidence. There really isn’t a lot of it for any historical fact during that time period.”
“I doubt that conclusive proof is available–but good evidence is. Good evidence is sufficient for many hypotheses.”
“Conclusive proof is typically beyond most questions about antiquity. Given that it is so rare, I doubt that there will be any for the Book of Mormon. Even very good information is likely to be dismissed as coincidental.”
As I noted in my last blog post, when there is not conclusive evidence for something, it is a matter of faith. It is not history, it is not objective fact, it is not science. It may be plausible, it may be hypothetical or theoretical, but it cannot be objective truth in any sense of the term.
Do I doubt the Church’s teachings on the Book of Mormon? I do.