Christianity is a historical religion. The Bible makes claims about events that happened in real time and space that can be evaluated in light of the historical and archaeological records. If the events of the Bible truly happened, then one would expect the surviving evidence to lend support to the biblical record. If not, then we would naturally expect the evidence to contradict it. Over the last two centuries, the Bible has fared incredibly well.

Mormonism also makes a number of historical claims. Like the claims of the Old and New Testaments, the Mormon scriptures can be checked against the historical and archaeological records. The Book of Mormon and other Mormon scriptures have not fared well at all. The dearth of evidence has made things increasingly difficult for Mormon apologists.

Scholars within the Mormon community have recognized the difficulties presented by the archaeological record. Michael Coe, professor emeritus at Yale University and one of America’s foremost experts on the Mayan civilization, says, “What has gone wrong, therefore, with Mormon archaeology?… Mormon intellectuals, it seems to me, have taken three ways to extract themselves from the dilemma,” noting, “The third way out of the dilemma is apostasy. I will not dwell further on this painful subject, but merely point out that many unusually gifted scholars whom I count as friends have taken exactly this route” (Coe 1973, pp. 46-47). Scholars such as William Ramsay and William Foxwell Albright began as skeptics of the Bible and later became convinced by the evidence that the Bible was true. It would appear that the opposite is the case for many scholars who have difficulty reconciling the claims of the Mormon scriptures with the paucity of evidence in the archaeological record.

Of all the sacred texts of the Mormon church, one of the most fascinating is the Book of Abraham, a five-chapter book that purportedly records the travels of Abraham in Egypt. According to Joseph Smith’s introductory comments in the translation, Abraham wrote the book himself, “by his own hand, upon papyrus” (Smith, 1842, [9]3:704). The book tells a story of Abraham’s capture and near-sacrifice by an evil Egyptian priest. It also portrays the patriarch as lecturing the pharaoh in astronomy….

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