Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Letter of Arthur Budvarson—Part V

Continuing with Arthur Budvarson’s six questions asked of Dr. Roberts of the Smithsonian Institute about the Book of Mormon, their answers and our evaluation. The first three questions were covered in the last three posts. Here is the fourth question: 
4. “Does the Book of Mormon have any value in connection with scientific investigation and archeological discoveries?”
    Before delving into Robert’s answer, let us consider the importance of this question and the response found within the scientific community.
    The criteria of the Book of Mormon, of course, covers certain events of great interest:
1) People from the Old World sailing to the Western Hemisphere and landing on the American continent;
2) The first recorded information of a settlement in the Western Hemisphere, leading to the beginning of the American aborigines;
3. The background, heritage and religion of these first American aborigines;
4. The beginning and parentage, the wars and their causes, the interactions and social events, of the first indigenous inhabitants of the Americas;
5. Prehistory dates of events that took place in the Americas, the background and construction of defenses, walls, and settlements;
6. Answering the centuries-old questions about who built Sacsayhuaman, Pachacamac, Tiahuanaco, Machu Picchu, Chan-Chan, Chagin de Huantar, Sipan, Caral, etc., and all the other ruins in South America as well as all those those found in Central America;
7. Answering who the ancient ancestors were of the Aztec, Maya and Inca civilizations, including those of Easter Island, and most likely those of Polynesia.
    With all of this in mind (and so much more), one can only wonder why every archaeologist, anthropologist, historian and researcher in the field is not beating a path to the various involved departments at Brigham Young University, and learning all that has so far been done along these lines, and studying the Book of Mormon geography and everything they can get their hands on. After all, if someone claimed to have uncovered a record of an ancient people, written by them, that discussed their beginning, life achievements, accomplishments and failures relevant to an ancient civilization that everyone knows once existed but no one has any knowledge about, don’t you think scientists would be chomping at the bit to get their hands on such information?
    What if information suddenly became available about the beginning of Stonehenge, or the fifteen monuments recently discovered underground there by ground-penetrating radar. What if the information suddenly surfaced regarding the origination and meaning of the famous Nazca lines? Or the mysterious monument recently found underneath the Sea of Galilee? Or who actually built the Pyramids along the Giza Plateau; or who the builders were of the stone age tunnels beneath Germany and Austria; or information about the Gobleki Tepe in southeastern Turkey?
Recently discovered temple complex in Anatolia called the most important archaeological discovery of modern times found in Turkey that pre-dates pottery, writing, the wheel and metallurgy that was built thousands of years before Stonehenge
    If any of these items, or the thousands of other historical mysteries yet to be understood, were suddenly exposed, there would be a mad dash of science toward opening up and digesting these secrets. So why not a single non-LDS archaeological or anthropological interest regarding the indigenous beginnings of the Americas found within the pages of the Book of Mormon?
    One would think that the modern archaeological world would be extremely interested in how the Western Hemisphere became inhabited. One would think that a written guideline as to how the ancient ruins scattered about Central and South America came to be built would be of some interest to archaeologists, as would the social development of this first American civilization to anthropologists, including the social and biological sciences as well as the humanities and physical sciences.
   Take Sociocultural Anthropology, which is the examination of social patterns and practices across cultures, with a special interest in how people live in particular places and how they organize, govern, and create meaning. A hallmark of sociocultural anthropology is its concern with similarities and differences, both within and among societies, and its attention to race, class, gender, and nationality. One might wonder why no sociocultural anthropologist (outside of BYU perhaps) has ever spent any time studying the Nephite and Lamanite cultures, or the Jaredite civilization before them, as to their grappling with practical problems of everyday life and with basic philosophical problems of knowledge, truth, power, justice and religion in the ancient world of the Americas.
    On the other hand, one of the areas of work associated with Biological (or Physical) Anthropology is the study of prehistoric people (bioarchaeology), and what virgin territory the Book of Mormon peoples of the Jaredites, Nephites, Mulekites and Lamanites would provide this field of endeavor. Yet one of the greatest untouched and untainted areas for such work, the peoples of the Book of Mormon, have never been studied by the anthropological world.
One can only wonder what prejudicial attitudes have existed for the past hundred or more years to keep such work at bay in any and all of these fields. Certainly, there is much work that can be done here with a record that spans one thousand years with one group, and about 1500 years with another.
    Consequently, the question: Does the Book of Mormon have any value in connection with scientific investigation and archeological discoveries?” should be answered with a resounding “yes.” However, as Dr. Roberts so clearly stated: “Unfortunately, I am not well versed in the Book of Mormon.” Thus, where science demands the ignoring of such anthropological records as the Book of Mormon’s thousand plus years history of man’s development in a pristine environment, there is little chance that such will ever take place.
    Dr. Roberts answer, of course, was that he had not found that any of the archaeological data as known by him and his associates correspond with the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. However, true to his lack of knowledge and that of science in general, he added that he is “not thoroughly versed in the Book of Mormon.” In addition, his response was directed to the question posed to him regarding the Americas, but translated as “Mexico and Central America,” which is the location to which Budvarson directed his question.
    Again, all of this was obviously known and understood by Budvarson before he wrote the Smithsonian regarding this question. Consequently, the fact that the Book of Mormon has never, and likely never will be, used for “scientific investigation and archaeological discovery,” the issue again is a moot point and has no place in a discussion about whether or not the Book of Mormon purports an actual truthful record of an indigenous people in the Americas.

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