It seems to me that any evidence, even a little evidence, which would show non-LDS scholars undoubtedly that something, anything, in the Book of Mormon is real history, is prohibited, even an accumulation of conjectural evidence which would show with near certainty the reality of Book of Mormon history. These evidences must remain forever undiscoverable in the secular world, by its very nature. And this from a believing historical viewpoint.
It doesn’t seem like this kind of evidence rarely exists for most other things. We have quite certain evidence for the location of Jerusalem, and many other cities noted in the Bible. But this knowledge does not cause the same theological problem as would similar evidence if discovered for cities in the Book of Mormon. If we had quite certain evidence for the location of Zarahemla, and non-LDS scholars agreed, it would create a theological problem.
It seems that LDS apologists claim that the nature of evidence is that we cannot know anything with any degree of certainty about the ancient world given the available evidence. But I think most scholars would disagree. Even a little evidence can tell us worlds of information about antiquity. Forensic scientists discover a single toe bone, and by studying it unveil a whole host of information about the given animal.
Granted we can’t know historical specifics with much degree of accuracy (such as the exact day that animal died, or what he had for lunch that day), but generalities and broad concepts about antiquity we can readily know very well, with very near 100% certainty, over time. A discovery about some historical event or person or artifact usually starts off with low certainty as to its origins and meanings, but as the evidence gathers and mounts that certainty grows closer and closer to certainty. If not, then how could history be taken seriously? The nature of the Book of Mormon historicity seems to mandate that nothing can be known about it with anywhere near certainty. The evidence simply can’t mount in its favor, because that would lead to certainty, which would destroy freedom and faith.
LDS apologists telling someone like Dr. Philip Jenkins that we just haven’t found that certain evidence yet, that it doesn’t exist, that it was destroyed by the elements, or that we can’t interpret the available evidence properly, seems to be disingenuous of the true nature of the situation. Book of Mormon historicity cannot be shown to be real with anywhere close to 100% certainty because that would deny faith and freedom. The apologists could claim “epistemic distance,” but they don’t seem to, at least not specifically for Book of Mormon historicity. It seems that this peculiar and particular nature of the subject matter is what makes it so different than secular academic fields of study, but the apologists aren’t willing to grant that there is a significant difference.
Either God must keep evidence at bay, or the book is not historical.
Do I doubt the official story as taught by the Church and apologists about the Book of Mormon historicity? I do.