In a previous post on fortifications and on my related page about fortifications in the Book of Mormon, I noted the existence of some relevant photos on the Web. Another interesting photo of an ancient defensive trench, consistent with defenses described in Alma, is available in an article by Dr. F. Richard Hauck, “Are There Archaeological Correlations to the Book of Mormon?,” the first in an upcoming series. I’ve read his book on Book of Mormon geography, which recognizes the limited geography model implicit in the text and, like several other scholars, finds that Mesoamerica is the only plausible location. The details of his model differ with that of John Sorenson and others, and I’m not sure about the specific sites that he proposes for several Book of Mormon cities. But it is interesting that in the site he concluded was most likely Manti, he later found ancient defensive structures consistent with the Book of Mormon.
Given the infancy of archaeological exploration in Mesoamerica relative to exploration in the Middle East, more time is needed to conclude which sites correspond to which Book of Mormon locations (yes, this statement presupposes that the Book of Mormon is an authentic ancient text tied to real people and real lands). In spite of the much more advanced state of knowledge about the Middle East, it has only been in recent years that plausible sites have been found for specific Book of Mormon places in the Arabian Peninsula such as Nahom, Shazer, and Bountiful. It may be years before the same “wow” factor will accompany apparent correlations between the text and specific Mesoamerican sites. But to those who simply dismiss the finds pertaining to the Arabian Peninsula, I would like to ask now what level of evidence from Mesoamerica would be needed to move you to reconsider your objections to the Book of Mormon? For example, if there were an ancient Mesoamerica city whose ancient name (something that usually been lost) and location correlated to a Book of Mormon name, would that suffice? Or would it take something much more dramatic, such as an ancient engraving that a non-LDS scholar translates as “Welcome to Zarahemla, home of the Nephites”? Would even that open your mind?
I recognize that even dramatic evidences can be misleading. One could always argue, for example, that demonic powers inspired Joseph to put “evidences” into the text that would later be used to deceive the masses. The key to matters of God is to seek God in prayer, and, using our minds and faith, seek to understand His will and obtain revelation about the divinity of the Book of Mormon or other matters that may affect our religious beliefs and eternal salvation. Trust God, not me or other men or women, but we must do our part to use our minds and study the issues ourselves and then seek divine guidance in order to make our quest most effectual.