Mormon Scholars and Book of Mormon Archaeology

University anthropologists and archaeologists are challenging the historicity of the Book of Mormon. For example, BYU Professor of Anthropology Ray T. Matheny calls the constant reference in the Book of Mormon to iron implements "a king-size problem":

The Book of Mormon talks about ferrous and non-ferrous metallurgical industries. A ferrous industry is a whole system of doing something. It’s just not an esoteric process that a few people are involved in, but ferrous industry.., means mining iron ores and then processing these ores and casting [them] into irons.... This is a process that’s very complicated...it also calls for cultural backup to allow such an activity to take place.... In my recent reading of the Book of Mormon, I find that iron and steel are mentioned in sufficient context to suggest that there was a ferrous industry here....
(Ray T. Matheny, Speech at Sunstone Symposium 6, "Book of Mormon Archaeology," Aug. 25, 1984.)

But Matheny says archaeology proves that there was no iron mining in the Western Hemisphere in pre-Columbian times. And there is no room for making a mistake about it:

You can’t refine ore without leaving a bloom of some kind or impurities that blossom out and float to the top of the ore... and also the flux of limestone or whatever is used to flux the material.... [This] blooms off into silicas and indestructible new rock forms. In other words, when you have a ferroused metallurgical industry, you have these evidences of the detritus that is left over. You also have the fuels, you have the furnaces, you have whatever technologies that were there performing these tasks; they leave solid evidences. And they are indestructible things.... No evidence has been found in the new world for a ferrous metallurgical industry dating to pre-Columbian times. And so this is a king-size kind of problem, it seems to me, for the so-called Book of Mormon archaeology. This evidence is absent.(Ibid)

The Book of Mormon not only mentions iron, but steel and machinery and scimitars and breastplates and metal engraving (which calls for hardened steel-tipped tools to chase metal). It speaks of gold and silver coinage–no Western-style coins have ever been found from pre-Columbian America.

The Book of Mormon mentions shipbuilding, sailing, the use of the magnetic compass, wheeled vehicles (drawn by horses), tent manufacture, and linen manufacture. Archaeologists unanimously agree that none of these activities took place in the New World before the arrival of the Spanish colonizers. The Book of Mormon also describes non-Western agricultural products like wheat and barley, flax and vineyards (and wine presses). These are giant archaeological problems. So is the description of domestic animals such as dogs, cows, goats, sheep, horses, asses, oxen, swine, and elephants. In addition the Book of Mormon uses attending cultural backup words like: pasture, chariot, stable, horned cattle, fowl, lamb, and fatlings.

Matheny concludes that the Book of Mormon terminologies and language are "nineteenth-century literary concepts and cultural experiences one would expect Joseph Smith and his colleagues to experience." The only reasonable conclusion for this Brigham Young University professor is that Joseph Smith made up the Book of Mormon.

Another BYU Professor, John L. Sorenson, an anthropologist, says the American Indians clearly did not descend from Hebrews; the languages of the New World do not have a Hebrew root; and the physical and biological characteristics of the American Indians are not Semitic. (The American Indians are, with no challenge, Mongoloid, not Caucasian. No amount of breeding will produce Mongoloids from Caucasians.)

Sorensen also says there is no way the geography spoken of in the Book of Mormon could have stretched thousands of miles from South America to New York–as the Book of Mormon states. "It could not have been longer than seven hundred miles," Sorensen says. Latter-day Saints, according to Sorensen, are going to have to revise their concept of truth about the Book of Mormon.