Since the time of Joseph Smith, there have been many who pose the problem of “prove it” to those who would share the gospel with them. That’s a daunting challenge. As it turns out, there are many who are up to the task. They gain greater knowledge almost every day which points to the truthfulness of the gospel. From the beginning, there have been those inside and outside of the faith who actively pursue proofs and validations for what we believe.
Copies of the symbols from the golden plates were given to a scholar of that time and asked if they were real symbols and characters from history and if he would or could translate them. The scholar first agreed with their authenticity, then removed his endorsement when he found out the symbols were from the Book of Mormon.
The wife of one scribe for Joseph Smith constantly doubted and wanted answers to what her husband was investing his time in. He begged Joseph Smith to let him take a few translated pages to show his wife. Though the Lord told him no, the man persisted until the Lord withdrew His restraining hand, allowing the man to share the document with his wife and family. The result? The pages became lost and could never be retranslated for many reasons.
While these examples may seem weak and inconclusive, they are meant only to show that the desire to know for sure if the Book of Mormon is actually the record of ancient inhabitants of America has been among us since the plates were first given to Joseph by the hand of Moroni.
Today, the questions dig deeper- finding DNA evidence to prove ancestry, archeological digs to find sites of importance within the Book of Mormon, examinations of travel, current and tide patterns to try and find where each group of people would have landed when coming to what we call the “Promised Land”. Are they finding answers? Yes, to some extent.
Does this affect the testimony of the members? As a whole, no. There will be those few who find these scholarly questions more defining than the spirit’s whisperings. These will find themselves tossed about according to various theories, sources, and answers. Some may let this proof, or lack of proof, as the case may be lead them away from what really matters, turning their back on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Why isn’t this the case with more members of the church? Simply put, the gospel isn’t about proof on paper; it’s about proof in our individual lives. It’s about the changes that come over us and we put the gospel principles to the test, not identifying where Lehi and his family first landed. These can be helpful by letting us understand these ancient men and women better but it does not define who we are as a religion. A testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of the Book of Mormon, and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints comes from our feelings and from our heart. Christ openly invites us to prove whether or not His gospel is true. He challenges us to follow His principles and see where it leads us. He does not, however tell us we should only believe if we can prove exactly where the Jaredites lived or what the DNA make-up of a Mayan says about where they originally came from. He asks for our heart and our love. That comes from putting the gospel to the test, not the technicalities.
Take God’s challenge. Put the Book of Mormon to the test as the word of God, not as a history book. Live Christ-like principles in your life and see what kind of person you become.