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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Three Types of Book of Mormon Evidence: External

In Hugh Nibley's "The Prophetic Book of Mormon", we find three types of evidence for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon: internal, external, and circumstantial. The previous post was about internal evidences. This one is about external evidences.

Again, quoting from "The Prophetic Book of Mormon" by Hugh Nibley:

External Evidence. Our islander has been rescued by a British tramp steamer. Burning with curiosity, he jumps ship in London, rushes to Great Russell Street, and bounds up the steps of the British Museum three at a time. He is now after external proofs for the Book of Mormon. He may spend the next forty years in the great library, but whatever external evidence he finds must fulfill three conditions:

1. The Book of Mormon must make clear and specific statements about certain concrete, objective things.

2. Other sources, ancient and modern, must make equally clear and objective statements about the same things, agreeing substantially with what the Book of Mormon says about them.

3. There must be clear proof that there has been no collusion between the two reports, i.e., that Joseph Smith could not possibly have knowledge of the source by which his account is being "controlled" or of any other source that could give him the information contained in the Book of Mormon.

The purpose of our studies on Lehi and the Jaredites was to supply information that fulfilled these three conditions, and the purpose of the present articles is to supply yet more evidence of the same type. In criticizing such information one might classify the various items as (a) positive, (b) possible, and (c) doubtful evidence of authenticity. As positive proof, we might accept the evidence of such authentically Egyptian names as Paanchi, Manti, and Hem, or such freakish Jaredite customs as keeping kings in comfortable imprisonment all their days, for these things are clearly described in the Book of Mormon, well established in the secular world, yet known to no one at the time the Book of Mormon came forth. As possible but not positive proof we have a good deal of evidence from the New World; the hesitation to accept this proof as final comes from the inability or reluctance of our secular experts to come to an agreement regarding just what they have found. Until they reach a consensus, our condition number two above remains unsatisfied and the issue unsettled. Finally there are doubtful bits of evidence put forth as proof, but which were better left alone. Thus while the Book of Mormon says that mountains rose and fell during the great earthquakes, the presence of the Rocky Mountains does not prove a thing, since the Book of Mormon does not pretend for a moment that mountains were never formed at any other time or in any other way. Such "evidence" only does harm.

Next Up: Circumstantial Evidences