A reader to Andrew Sullivan’s blog writes:
“I’m not trying to be mean or snide in noting this. But these are not doctrinal issues. They are historical claims made in a book that, by the account of those who believe it, should be read literally. For me, whatever I believe about Jesus or Paul or the claims of the New Testament, I know a city called Jerusalem existed. I know that the cities Paul traveled to were real.”
This is to compare apples and oranges. The Book of Mormon is also of the opinion that Jerusalem existed. The historicity of Paul and the authorship of at least some of the epistles is beyond serious question. However, the work of recent archaeologists has cast doubts on the historicity on some of the most central historical claims of the Old Testament. Archaeologists Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have argued that there is no independent evidence that the Exodus ever occurred, which would have to make Moses essentially a fictional character, and that if there was a historical David, he bears little resemblance to the Biblical portrait. I can imagine a liberalized version of any of the Abrahamic religions without an Adam and Eve. But I don’t know what it would even mean to be an adherent to any of them and think that there was no Moses. Though unsurprisingly, their work does not command universal assent, it is a serious contender for the truth.
Years ago I became interested in the question discussed by some of whether the Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphical work, should have been included in the Bible. Based on all we know about the construction of the Old Testament, I came to the conclusion that the only real difference between canon and pseudepigrapha is the sheer fact of acceptance itself. The only test of truth for the latter, in the end, is its agreement with the former.
The Book of Mormon therefore ought to rattle adherents of the Abrahamic religions, because it isn’t fundamentally different from much of Biblical text. The difference is that in the former case we can’t help but know that it’s fiction and in the latter case, well, we can help it.