- There is no conclusive evidence for Book of Mormon historicity.
- There does not exist conclusive evidence for Book of Mormon historicity that could ever be discovered, or at least it is extremely unlikely or highly doubtful.
The reason I believe there is not conclusive evidence, and that it does not exist, or can not exist, is either epistemic distance (which creates its own share of difficulties) or the book is not historical.
The reason the apologists give for there not being conclusive evidence is that there is a scarcity of evidence available, there is a scarcity of evidence that could be discovered, or we can’t deduce a Book of Mormon connection from the evidence that is currently available. But it seems they still grant that absolute proof would deny our freedom, so God deliberately withholds anything that would approach anywhere near certainty (again, this causes problems for God in dealing with Book of Mormon historicity).
One way or the other, belief in Book of Mormon historicity is a belief based on faith, and will always be a belief based on faith. It will not, and cannot ever be, a belief based on objective, historical truth, by its very nature.
Dr. William Hamblin is currently engaged in debate with Dr. Philip Jenkins, a non-Mormon scholar, trying to convince him to take Book of Mormon historicity seriously. This happens every time a non-Mormon scholar says that Book of Mormon historicity is unfounded. Hamblin laments the fact, over and over, that the non-Mormon academic establishment just won’t take the book seriously.
Yet he then states, “To accept the Book of Mormon as history requires accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet and Jesus as the Christ. In the modern secular academy, it is the religious claims of the book, rather than its archaeological claims, which dooms it to being rejected without even being read.”
That is true. It seems to me that reading the book would get the non-Mormon scholar no where in being convinced to take it seriously as history, since Book of Mormon historicity presumes, even requires, faith in Mormonism. Why would they take the book seriously if it requires them to believe in Mormonism? The study of no other subject requires one to believe it.
When apologists engage in defending Book of Mormon historicity, they have no choice but engage in a form of proselytism or missionary work.
Do I doubt the apologists are being scholars when they talk about Book of Mormon historicity? I do.