This last weekend I was at my parents home. I ended up not feeling well for a day or so. I looked around for stuff to watch (they don’t have regular TV and I forgot my laptop’s power cord) and happened across the documentary Journey of Faith: The New World. Having spent five weeks traveling through Mesoamerica studying the peoples and history there, it was my first pick. I’d already watched the original Journey of Faith and was very impressed by it.
Following suit, The New World is very impressive as well. While not quite as specific and detail-oriented as the first film, which only covers Lehi’s journey from Jerusalem to the sea, The New World is more of an overview of evidence that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica. Personally my favorite aspect of the film was what we learn about the Book of Mormon when we read it in context of a Mesoamerican setting. In spite of my time and study, I’d always looked at Mesoamerica in context of a Book of Mormon setting. The film implies that if you do the reverse, you’ll get more out of your study of the sacred scripture.
Limitations of DNA
One segment that really impressed me was actually a bonus feature on the DVD about DNA evidence of the Book of Mormon taking place in America. Some of you may have heard about the Bishop who published a book saying that DNA doesn’t support the Book of Mormon happening in America. He was later brought before a church disciplinary council and excommunicated. The interesting thing was that it wasn’t as a result of his publishing the book, but was based on charges of adultery. Dr. John L. Lund the speaker on the audio-recording Discovering the Lands of the Book of Mormon, points out that in the study this man based his book on, all outliers in the DNA statistics were thrown out under the assumption that they were the result of European mixing with the native Americans. Thus leaving no room for any evidence. Here’s the take that The New World takes on it:
Faith vs Fact
Dr. Steven L. Peck, a professor at BYU, recently posted a very interesting look at the old debate/war between the hard-line creationist scriptures-are-literal crowd, and the purist atheist- evolutionist science-is-god people (I highly recommend you read it). He concludes that essentially the creationists conceded the rules of the fight to the atheists when they started by saying that God is found in the “gaps” that science can’t yet explain. As science explains more and more, God is forced into ever smaller “gaps” in scientific knowledge. Bro. Peck argues that God never intended to be found through evidence, or a lack thereof. Therefore both are fighting a meaningless battle. God is found only through having a relationship with him. Dr. Peck points out that that is one of the great miracles of God’s grace: he invites each of us to develop a personal relationship with him.
I believe the same concepts are best applied to the Book of Mormon and other things that must be taken on faith. If we develop a relationship with the Book of Mormon, we will know of its authenticity. Not based on evidences or proof, but because through it we develop a relationship with God, and he will confirm its truthfulness. Its something we will feel individually, not some evidence for the world to see. Thus I find putting the Book of Mormon in a Mesoamerican context very enlightening and helpful in advancing my relationship with the book, and God, but evidences are not the basis of my faith, and therefore contrary evidence will not shake it.