Book of Mormon Evidence
For many years, critics have challenged the veracity of a religious text called the Book of Mormon. The book is used by nearly thirteen million individuals who read it along with the Holy Bible, believing that both were written by prophets and contain the words of God. It is important to note that Mormonism will never set out to prove the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by tangible evidence, but rather it encourages each earnest seeker to read the book and ask God if it is true. While there is nonetheless a vast range of evidence supporting the Book of Mormon, this article will only discuss the evidence found through studying ancient Native American legends and comparing them with details of the Book of Mormon.
Native American Writings Congruent with Book of Mormon Writings
Because the bulk of the Book of Mormon is said to have been written in ancient America around the period of 600 B.C. up to about 400 A.D., Native American writings are an important consideration when factually studying the possibility of authentic Book of Mormon authors. For example, evidence to support the claim by Mormons that some Native Americans are descendants of Israel is given by a translator of a Native American text called the Title of the Lords of Totonicapán. In 1554, the original text was recorded in the Quiché language of Guatemala from legends that were centuries old. To understand the relevance of his statements, it is important to know that the Book of Mormon primarily speaks of three migratory groups, two of which had once lived among the children of Israel and who were descendents of Abraham and Jacob, and another that originated in the fertile crescent. The translator of Title of the Lords of Totonicapán seems to indicate that these migratory groups might possibly have existed in ancient America. In summary of his findings, he makes the following statements:
“The three great Quiché nations … are descendants of the Ten Tribes of the Kingdom of Israel, whom Shalmaneser reduced to perpetual captivity and who, finding themselves on the border of Assyria, resolved to emigrate….
‘These, then, were the three nations of Quichés, and they came from where the sun rises, descendants of Israel, of the same language and same customs…. They were sons of Abraham and Jacob….
“Now on the twenty-eighth of September of 1554 we sign this attestation in which we have written that which by tradition our ancestors told us, who came from the other part of the sea, from Civán-Tulán, bordering on Babylonia” (Title of the Lords of Totonicapán, trans. Dionisio José Chonay and Delia Goetz, Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953, pp. 167, 170, 194).
Quetzalcoatl in the Book of Mormon: The White Bearded God
Frequently in Ancient American literature and legends, reference is made to a “white, bearded god who descended out of the heavens.” Although he is referred to by several names, this legendary figure is often referred to as Quetzalcoatl. “Historians of the sixteenth century recorded pre-Hispanic beliefs concerning the white, bearded god who came to the Americas long before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors” (Brewerton, 30). While this may seem to be merely a legend or an unexplainable part of history, the Book of Mormon, believed to be written by ancient American prophets, reports the visitation of Jesus Christ to the American continent following his resurrection. The congruencies between the Book of Mormon account and Native American legends are astonishing. The following paragraphs contain examples of these Native American legends:
Bernardo de Sahagun (born 1499) wrote:
“Quetzalcoatl was esteemed and considered as a god, and was worshipped in older times. He had long hair and was bearded. The people worshipped only the Lord” (Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva España, Mexico: Editorial Porrua, S. A., 1985, pp. 195, 598).
Diego Duran (born 1537) wrote:
“A great man—a person venerable and religious—bearded, tall, long hair, dignified deportment, heroic acts, miracles—I affirm he could have been one of the blessed apostles” (Historia de las Indias de Nueva España, 1867, first ed., 2 vols., Mexico: Editorial Porrua, S. A., 1967, 1:9).
Bartolomé de las Casas (born 1474) wrote that Quetzalcoatl, the plumed serpent, was white, had a rounded beard, was tall, and came from the sea in the east, from whence he will return (see Los Indios de Mexico y Nueva España Antologiá, Mexico: Editorial Porrua, S. A., 1982, pp. 54, 218, 223).
The Tamanacos Indian tribes in Venezuela have the same legend of a white, bearded god:
“[Amalivacá] had a face the color of the light fluffy clouds of the morning, and white was his long head of hair. … He said: ‘I am Amalivacá, and I come in the name of my father INA-UIKI’ ” (Arturo Hellmund Tello, Leyendas Indígenas del Bajo Orinoco, trans. Ted E. Brewerton, Buenos Aires, Argentina: Imprenta Lopez Peru 666, 1948, pp. 19–22). (Brewerton, The Book…)
It is true that this is a story unfamiliar to the majority of the Christian world, but why could it not be true that Jesus Christ appeared to the people in America following His resurrection? It is possible that the congruencies in the Book of Mormon and Ancient American legends are telling us that He did. These accounts may reveal the meaning behind Jesus Christ’s statement to his apostles in John 10:16 when he says, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (King James Version). In the Book of Mormon, Christ explains to the ancient American people that they were the “other sheep.”
These ideas and other verifying evidences are thought-provoking and worth discussion. However, Mormons claim that the only sure way to know if the Book of Mormon is true and if Christ really did visit the Americas is to ask God Himself through prayer. If the book is true, God will help it to make sense in one’s mind and a positive influence and feelings of comfort, unattainable other than from God, will confirm to the reader that it is good. An answer from God will be the most reliable evidence telling you if the Book of Mormon is true or not.