Jenkins Response 14: The Real Problem

The real problem with the rejection of the historicity of the Book of Mormon is not that the Book of Mormon professes Precolumbian transoceanic contact with the New World.  Sixty or seventy years ago that possibility was almost universally rejected by scholars of Precolumbian America.  (The Viking site at L’Anse aux Meadows was discovered only in 1968.)  Now the possibility is widely accepted, at least in principle.  The problem with the Book of Mormon is not the claim that a small colony of Israelites from the Middle East might have come to the New World and thrived for a few centuries before beings subsumed in the broader Mesoamerican culture.  The problem is that the Book of Mormon professes to have been delivered by an angel, and translated by the power of God.  The problem with the Book of Mormon is that it claims Jesus visited the new world.  These claims—rather than its claims about Precolumbian American archaeology—are the fundamental reason it receives almost no serious attention by Precolumbian scholars.  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.