The Book of Mormon... presents itself as a literal history of multiple large civilizations and continues to be read that way by its ever-growing audience. This lends strong impulses toward an empirical and seemingly more scientific investigation of the archaeological record.
Yet we must address the question of whether one should allow a book's origin to totally set the agenda for how it is to be investigated, read, and understood. The strong tendency of the Book of Mormon to overwhelm all historically defined frameworks would seem to indicate that, yes, the best way to study it would be as history buried in the ground. Yet... the extant archaeological record is spotty and incomplete at the best of times.
Also challenging is how we are to understand the history we see related in the Book of Mormon. The Bible, too, purports to be a historical account of a historical people facing historical problems. All of this led scholars to read the Bible incorrectly for centuries... later scholarship... has shown that it is impossible to understand the Bible without seeing it as a document rich in very unhistorical mythology (and this applies not only to books like Genesis, but also to histories like 1 and 2 Kings).
Indeed, the very attempt to historicize that which could only exist and have meaning in another frame of reference is probably one of the greater mistakes that the field of Western humanities has made... Thus, one of the questions facing biblical archaeologists is how to study a people whose history is a part of their own myth complex...
It is not clear why these same issues should not be applicable to the Book of Mormon. After all, it claims to be a product of the same culture and historical theories that ultimately gave us the Bible. How the Jaredites actually fit into the Nephite myth complex and what evidence of them one can rationally expect to see are examples of issues that have yet to be addressed by the Latter-day Saint scholarly community.
Welch's discovery of chiasmus and the subsequent exploration of other archaic poetic forms has generally been a very positive development in terms of internal evidences. Yet a subjective quality to the reading of any text cannot be avoided... Applying their rules, I have also been able to locate the Davidic Chiasmus in such presumably uninspired works as modern novels and the Manhattan telephone directory... All of this illustrates the need to set clearer ad hoc guidelines as to what sorts of parallels we are willing to accept as nonspurious.
In our zeal to find evidence of ancient poetic forms, we should not set the bar so low that it becomes meaningless in terms of serious apologetics, or even analysis.
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