Book of Mormon Archeological Evidence? — Rich Kelsey

Book of Mormon Archeological Evidence? — Rich Kelsey 
Photograph by George Edward Anderson, 1907
Photograph of the Hill Cumorah in New York by George Edward Anderson, 1907.

Two Battles on and Around the Same Hill:

According to the Book of Mormon, the entire population of America except for the prophet Ether, fought in a battle that left just one man standing:

Millions of the Jaredites are slain in battle—Shiz and Coriantumr assemble all the people to mortal combat—The Spirit of the Lord ceases to strive with them—The Jaredite nation is utterly destroyed—Only Coriantumr remains. (Introduction to Ether 15)

The story maintains that men along with their wives and children, were:

“… armed with weapons of war, having shields, breastplates and head-plates.”[1]

Five hundred and fifteen years later, about 385 A.D., another battle supposedly took place around the same hill[2]. Both battles involved the entire population of America. The second battle also included men, along with their wives and their children.[3]

And they were armed:

“… with the sword, and with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the ax, and with all manner of weapons of war.”[4]

As difficult as it is to believe that the entire population of America fought, not once, but twice around the same hill in New York. What is also hard to fathom, is that no archeological evidence has ever been found to confirm these battles took place.

And it’s not just a lack of archeological evidence in the State of New York. There has been no archeological evidence found to support the Book of Mormon’s narrative across the entire American Continent.

Missing Archeological Evidence:

The National Geographic Society,

“… does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon.”[5]

The Smithsonian Institution reports,

“Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.”[6]

Why is it that archeologists have found,

“… absolutely nothing …”[7]

to point to the existence of civilizations mentioned in the Book of Mormon? 

Archeologists looking into the people and lands of the Bible, as well as other ancient civilizations, including those in North, Central, and South America,[8] have found plenty of archeological evidence confirming those civilizations existed; including pre-Columbian, Mesoamerican civilizations dating back to the same period[9] mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon maintains:

The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea.” (Mormon 1:7)

If the Book of Mormon were true, we should expect to find remnants of these buildings across the American Continent. Yet, there is no archeological evidence to show that about 1,700 years ago, buildings covered America.

LDS leaders maintain,

“The Church emphasizes the doctrinal and historical value of the Book of Mormon, not its geography.”[10]

They go on to say,

“… there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site.”[11]

Dee F. Green, editor of the University Archaeological Society Newsletter said,

“The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists … no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography. Biblical archaeology can be studied because we do know where Jerusalem and Jericho were and are, but we do not know where Zarahemla and Bountiful were or are. It would seem then that a concentration on geography should be the first order of business, but we have already seen that twenty years of such an approach has left us empty-handed.” (BYU Publication, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1969, pp. 77-78)

Missing archeological evidence[12] is a real problem[13] for the LDS Church, perhaps that is why the Church downplays its relevance:

“… the geography question has not been answered by church authorities, nor have the opinions worked out by geography hobbyists yet led to agreement. In 1947 it was still possible to hope that ‘out of the studies of faithful Latter-day Saints may yet come a unity of opinion concerning Book of Mormon geography’ as Elder Widtsoe put it. But in the half century since, confusion has grown.” (Does Geography in the Book of Mormon Matter?, Provo, Utah: BYU, Maxwell Institute)

The LDS Church is left with the daunting task of trying to convince investigators that ‘the geography question’ doesn’t really matter.

Reason for a Lack of Archeological Evidence, Does This Sound Logical?

“There is a very fundamental reason why Book of Mormon archeology has not yet been discovered … If the Book of Mormon is accepted to be true as an act of the faith of the inquirer it will invite the witness of the Holy Spirit to reveal to the inquirer the KNOWLEDGE that the book is indeed true. That knowledge, inspired by faith, brings with it a commitment to obey the gospel principals that are announced and developed in the book. On the other hand, were it to be demonstrated to be true by scientific investigation it would merely join the ranks of all the other scientific literature, and carry with it no moral commitment of compliance with the principles reveal therein.” (, 2013)

The idea that God’s purpose for mankind is best fulfilled through a lack of Book of Mormon archeological evidence is a common LDS teaching.[14] Yet, this concept doesn’t make sense. Because there are literally tons of artifacts to verify that people, places, and lands, mentioned in the Bible existed.

Archeologists have found many ancient biblical cities. We know where ancient Jerusalem was located, and the temple spoken of in the gospels has been found. Yet it still requires faith to believe that Jesus lived, performed miracles, died on a cross, and then ascended to heaven! Therefore, it stands to reason that the explanation some LDS apologists offer for why Book of Mormon artifacts have not been found is doubletalk.

Scholar, Seeker of Truth, and Regrettably, Finder of Truth:

Thomas Stuart Ferguson,[15] was a distinguished and devout Mormon archeologist, who set out to prove to the world that the Book of Mormon was true.

Ferguson thought it would be possible to find artifacts from archaeological digs that would confirm the Book of Mormon storyline. He believed all he had to do was use the Book of Mormon as a guide, because it speaks of the Nephites living in the New World and mentions several Nephite cities by name,[16] along with Nephite lands and villages. The Book of Mormon records that the Nephites constructed houses of cement,[17] as well as temples, synagogues and sanctuaries[18] throughout their territories.

Yet, with all of the digs and research Ferguson and his team undertook, they failed to find one artifact to prove that Book of Mormon Nephite cities, villages, or territories ever existed.

After twenty-five years of research, Ferguson concluded:

“… you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere, because it is fictional …”[19]

Oxford Dictionary


  1. literature that describes imaginary events and people.
  2. something that is invented or untrue.

Ferguson, whose original goal was to prove to the world that the Book of Mormon was true,[20] eventually realized that the Book of Mormon is a fictional work.

Yet Ferguson had reasons why he never left the LDS Church. In a letter he wrote to an associate, Ferguson spells about his reasoning:

“Perhaps you and I have been spoofed by Joseph Smith. Now that we have the inside dope—why not spoof a little back and stay aboard? Please consider this letter confidential—for obvious reasons. I want to stay aboard the good ship, Mormonism—for various reasons that I think valid. First, several of my dearly loved family members want desperately to believe and do believe it and they each need it. It does them far more good than harm. Belonging, with my eyes wide open is actually fun… I never get up and bear testimony… You might give my suggestions a trial run.”[21]

Ferguson felt that revealing the truth about the Book of Mormon to his dearly beloved family would be bad for them. This type of reasoning was addressed by the 19th Century philosopher, Herbert Spencer:

“The greatest of all infidelities is the fear that the truth will be bad.”

The word infidelities means:

“absence of religious belief.”

What greater

“absence of religious belief”

could one possibly have than to fear,

“… the truth will be bad.”

If the truth might or will be bad for people, then something is seriously wrong with their faith!

Part One:

Book of Mormon Final Battles — Rich Kelsey

Full Article Index / LDS Articles


[1] “And it came to pass that when they were all gathered together, every one to the army which he would, with their wives and their children—both men, women and children being armed with weapons of war, having shields, and breastplates, and head-plates, and being clothed after the manner of war—they did march forth one against another to battle; and they fought all that day, and conquered not.” (Ether 15:15)

[2] “And it came to pass that the army of Coriantumr did pitch their tents by the hill Ramah; and it was that same hill where my father Mormon did hide up the records unto the Lord, which were sacred.” (Ether 15:11)

[3] “And it came to pass that my people, with their wives and their children, did now behold the armies of the Lamanites marching towards them; and with that awful fear of death which fills the breasts of all the wicked, did they await to receive them.” (Mormon 6:7)

[4] “And it came to pass that they did fall upon my people with the sword, and with the bow, and with the arrow, and with the ax, and with all manner of weapons of war.” (Mormon 6:9)

[5] “Thank you for contacting the National Geographic Society. Our position on the Book of Mormon has not changed, nor have we retracted any statements made previously. The National Geographic Society has not examined the historical claims of the Book of Mormon. We know of no archaeological evidence that corroborates the ancient history of the Western Hemisphere as presented in the Book of Mormon, nor are we aware of empirical verification of the places named in the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is clearly a work of great spiritual power; millions have read and revered its words, first published by Joseph Smith in 1830. Yet Smith’s narration is not generally taken as a scientific source for the history of the Americas. Archaeologists and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere’s past, and the Society does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon. In fact, students of prehistoric America by and large conclude that the New World’s earliest inhabitants arrived from Asia via the Bering land bridge. (Lower sea levels during ice ages exposed the continental shelf beneath Bering Strait, allowing generations of ancient Siberians to migrate east.) National Geographic carried “The First Americans” in its September 1979 issue, perhaps on your library’s shelf…  Sincerely, Lisa Walker” (Research Correspondence (The National Geographic’s Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon, Received via Email 1/21/2001) 

[6] (The Smithsonian Institution statement on The Book of Mormon)

[7] In 1973, Michael Coe, one of the best known authorities on archaeology of the New World, wrote an article for Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, Summer 1973. After telling of the Mormon belief in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, he frankly stated: “Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true,… nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon… is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.” (pp. 42, 46)

[8] The Olmec civilization — 1,200 – 400 BC —  flourished on the gulf coast of Mexico, and constructed the first pyramids in the North American continent as well as the big stone ‘baby-faced’ head monuments. The ancient Maya Civilization occupied much of the central North American continent based on the gulf coast of what is now Mexico between 2500 BC and AD 1500, and are known for their amazing complex artwork, particularly murals, and graceful pyramids. The capital city of the Zapotec Civilization — 500 BC – 750 AD is Monte Alban in the valley of Oaxaca in central Mexico. Monte Alban is one of the most intensively studied archaeological sites in the Americas, The Inca civilization was the largest civilization in the Americas when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the early 16th century. The Mississippian culture is a term used by archaeologists to refer to cultures inhabiting the length of the Mississippi River, The Aztec civilization was at the height of their power and influence when the Spanish arrived. Warlike, intractable, and aggressive, the Aztecs conquered much of Central America.

[9] Pre-Classic—Maya, Olmec and Zapotec civilizations flourished during the approximate period that events spoken of in the Book of Mormon are said to have occurred.

[10] (Office of the First Presidency, April 12, 1993)

[11] (Office of the First Presidency, April 12, 1993)

[12] “No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines, and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to have occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 …” (The Smithsonian Institution statement on The Book of Mormon)

[13] “While there is no archaeological evidence to support the Book of Mormon’s claim that there were Nephites in the New World, the existence of the Israelites in the Holy Land is verified by a great deal of evidence. The “earliest archaeological reference to the people of Israel” is a stele of the Egyptian ruler Merneptah, dated about 1220 B.C. Many ancient inscriptions mentioning the Israelites have been found, and some inscriptions even give the names of kings or other people mentioned in the Bible. The New Testament mentions a number of rulers that are known to have lived around the time of Christ. The fact that the Jews were in Palestine at the time the Bible indicates is proven by hundreds of ancient Hebrew inscriptions. Portions of every book of the Old Testament, except for the book Esther, have also been found in the manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. When we turn to the Book of Mormon, however, we are unable to find any evidence at all that the Nephites ever existed.” (Testing the Book of Mormon, Utah Lighthouse tract)

[14] “I cheerfully admit, and routinely say, that Mormonism has not proven its claims. I don’t think it’s supposed to do so, either …” (BYU Professor, Daniel C. Peterson)

[15] In a paper entitled, “Thomas Stuart Ferguson, 1915-83,” Fred W. Nelson wrote the following: “Thomas Ferguson has either directly or indirectly influenced thousands of people’s thinking on archaeology…. He has had a great influence on professional archaeology through the Department of Archaeology at Brigham Young University, the Gates Collection, and the New World Archaeological Foundation…. Ferguson’s legacy in the founding of the Archaeology Department at Brigham Young University, the obtaining of the Gates Collection, and as founder of the New World Archaeology Foundation stands as a shining example to us all.” (As cited in The Messiah in Ancient America, pp. 282-83)


City of Ammonihah, Wicked Nephite City, ‘Desolation of Nehors’

City of Bountiful, Major Nephite city in the northeastern quadrant

City by the Sea, Nephite city on the west coast

City of Cumeni, Nephite city fought for by Helaman

City of Desolation, Northern Nephite City

City of Jordan, Nephite retreat maintained by Mormon

City of Judea, Nephite city

City of and Land of Moroni, In southeast of Nephite lands

City of Moronihah, Iniquitous Nephite city

City of Mulek, Nephite city south of Bountiful

City of Nephihah, Nephite refuge captured and lost by the Lamanites

City of Omner, Nephite city by seashore on east borders

City of and Land of Shem2, Nephite land north of Antum and Jashon

City of Zarahemla, Major capital of Nephites from about 200 B.C. to A.D. 200

City of Zeezrom, Nephite city on southwest frontier 

[17] “Many Nephites migrate to the land northward—They build houses of cement and keep many records—Tens of thousands are converted and baptized—The word of God leads men to salvation—Nephi the son of Helaman fills the judgment seat. Between 49 and 39 B.C.” (Introduction to the Book of Helaman 3).

[18] “But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries,  and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.”  (Helaman 3:14)

[19] Thomas Stuart Ferguson was, at one time, one of the most noted defenders of Book of Mormon archaeology. Mr. Ferguson planned the New World Archaeological Foundation which he hoped would prove the Book of Mormon through archaeological research. The Mormon Church granted hundreds of thousands of dollars to this organization, but in the end, Thomas Stuart Ferguson admitted that although the Foundation made some important contributions to New World archaeology, all his work with regard to the Book of Mormon was in vain. He admitted, in fact, that he had wasted twenty-five years of his life trying to prove the Book of Mormon. In 1975 Ferguson prepared a 29-page paper in which he wrote: “I’m afraid that up to this point, I must agree with Dee Green, who has told us that to date there is no Book-of-Mormon geography.” In a letter to Mr. & Mrs. H.W. Lawrence, dated Feb. 20, 1976, Thomas Stuart Ferguson plainly stated: “…you can’t set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt-archeology.”

[20] In a letter to Mormon President David O. McKay, dated Dec. 14, 1951, Ferguson wrote: “If the anticipated evidences confirming the Book of Mormon are found, worldwide notice will be given to the restored gospel through the Book of Mormon. The artifacts will speak eloquently from the dust.” (The Messiah in Ancient America, p. 257)

[21] (Letter from Thomas Stuart Ferguson to Mr. & Mrs. H. W. Lawrence, dated Feb. 20, 1976)