Let’s consider the case of Big Foot. Some might think this is a straw man. But I think it is a very good comparison to what is going on with Book of Mormon historicity. If you believe that Book of Mormon historicity is somehow fundamentally different than Big Foot, please tell me how it is different.
We have a lot of evidence for Big Foot. There are photos, videos, footprints, hair, fecal remains, first hand witnesses, legends, etc. All of this, the believers claim, points to the reality of this creature. And there is a sizable number of people who claim this. Why is it that most scholars do not take it seriously? Why is Big Foot a myth and nothing more? The evidence is there. There are many people that believe wholeheartedly that Big Foot is real. But there are no Big Foot Studies programs at any universities, or even so much as well-documented peer-reviewed Big Foot research papers published in reputable mainstream journals. Why? Do scholars not consider the possibility that Big Foot could be real, so they stop research before it begins?
It seems to me that scholars do not consider Big Foot a reality because there is no evidence that is good enough that would convince most rational minds to believe it is real, and to research it further. It would be illogical for them to believe that Big Foot is real first, to have faith in it, and then to go look for the evidence to support their belief. Evidence leads to knowledge, not vice versa. Believing something is real, and then looking for evidence to support it is bound to turn up plenty of speculative evidence, but nothing certain.
I think this may be why LDS apologists have such a hard time convincing other scholars to take the Book of Mormon seriously. If faith in Mormonism is a prerequisite to studying Book of Mormon historicity, I wouldn’t expect many non-Mormon scholars to take up the program. Isn’t it odd that many LDS apologists expect them to? And isn’t that just a subtle form of prosyletism?