The Bible and the Book of Mormon
There is a continuous stream of documentary evidence for the New Testament writings going back to the second century AD (within a century or so of their original composition) and to the third century BC for significant portions of the Old Testament (notably in the Dead Sea Scrolls). There is scholarly consensus that most or all of the New Testament books were written in the first century AD. There is no consensus on the dates of most of the Old Testament books, but all scholars date them at least hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.
The major physical locations of the Bible have always been public knowledge, and even hardened skeptics must admit that much of the Bible is grounded in real history. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome were all real, major political and military powers in biblical times. Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Caesar Augustus, Tiberius, Herod the Great, and Pontius Pilate were all the men the Bible reports them to be. No serious historian questions the existence of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezra, or of John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul. Non-Christians may dispute the miracle accounts of the Bible, but only on the assumption that the God described in the Bible does not exist.
The foundational scripture of Mormonism is the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated from gold plates “by the gift and power of God.” The gold plates, if they ever existed, were never seen except by some of Joseph’s family and supporters, and they are not available to be examined. Thus, in stark contrast to the tens of thousands of ancient and medieval manuscripts of the Bible, there is no manuscript or physical textual evidence for the Book of Mormon. Contrary to Joseph Smith’s claim, no scholar ever authenticated the script or any translation of the gold plates. The Book of Mormon was produced by Joseph, not with the use of spectacles made of two stones set in silver bows as he later claimed, but by gazing into a magical “seer stone” in his hat that he had been using for years in treasure seeking.
The Book of Mormon purports to be an ancient collection of scriptures written by prophets in the Americas descended from Jews who settled there in the early sixth century BC. In fact, the Book of Mormon does not fit in any ancient setting in the Americas: its description of the lands in the New World where its peoples supposedly lived do not fit any geographical area, and its account of those peoples’ histories and cultures do not fit the archaeological evidence. Scientific studies of the DNA history of Native American peoples have shown that the ancient Americas were not populated by those of Middle Eastern or Israelite descent, forcing Mormons to abandon Joseph Smith’s explicit teaching that the American Indians were Lamanites (descendants of the Israelites described in the Book of Mormon). Instead, the Book of Mormon is clearly a modern work of fiction, reflecting Joseph’s own nineteenth-century religious and cultural context. Contrary to LDS Church claims, the Bible did not prophesy about the Book of Mormon. In fact, although the Book of Mormon quotes heavily from the Bible (including parts of the Bible the supposed ancient Book of Mormon writers had never seen), it also contradicts the Bible and undermines its sufficiency and reliability.
On the above topics, see especially the following articles on our website:
The Reliability of the Bible
“If the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham are not true, doesn’t this call into question the Bible as well?”
A Biblical Scholar Looks at the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon and the Bible
Joseph Smith’s Seer Stone
Anthon Transcript: Did Charles Anthon Authenticate the Book of Mormon Characters or Translation?
Book of Mormon and DNA Studies, Part 1: A Closer Look at the Book of Mormon; Part 2: A Closer Look at the Science
A wealth of additional articles on the Book of Mormon can be found on our Book of Mormon page
For a summary of the twelve reasons with links to articles on each, see the main article, “Why Christianity Is True but Mormonism Is Not: A Dozen Reasons.”