I used to read the Book of Mormon and wonder why it felt so hollow and meaningless. The stories of war and battles, of missionary work, Christian doctrine, sermons, prophecies, cycles of wickedness and righteousness and stories of destruction and miracles bored me. There was no substance behind the stories, no relevance to me or my life. My frustration became greater when I was a seminary student in high school and then as a missionary because all the adults I knew talked about how special and profound the Book of Mormon was and how much wisdom it contained. The more I searched, pondered, and prayed, the farther away I felt from a real understanding and appreciation. I thought about the fecundity of the Nephites and about how no other ancient civilization raised up millions of people in such short amounts of time. And even with these millions of people slain in battle, there is no evidence of their cities or destruction of their cities, no evidence of wars or weapons in the locations where Joseph Smith taught they were.
I agree that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, however, absence of evidence where their should be evidence, is evidence of absence.
I was an adult when I realized that the characters and events in the Book of Mormon were just stories based on fictional people who never existed except in someone’s imagination. When the shackles and chains and confusion that had bound my mind of critical thinking fell to the ground with a noisy clank I felt free to stand and face the world around me without any delusions.
I feel bad for people who say the Book of Mormon is their favorite book because they probably haven’t read many books. Brilliant minds have crafted more compelling stories that speak to the human condition and lift the reader to new heights of joy, pleasure, knowledge and understanding. The Good Earth never left me. Neither did The Alchemist. The vicious murder scene in Crime and Punishment terrified me and at the conclusion of Anna Karenina I felt a deep loss. I grieved for her. The Fountainhead set my soul on fire and inspired me to follow my passion. The Harry Potter series kept me up many nights flipping pages with intense passion and wonder. Like the Book of Mormon, these books are fictional and they tell stories and teach lessons but these books don’t claim to be anything more than what they are.
I wasted so much time devoting myself to finding the “truth” of the Book of Mormon instead of just accepting it as a mediocre work of fiction. I could have spent time learning about real people who made actual contributions to the world and human life. Like Aristotle, the man who invented logic and taught that knowledge could be derived from studying the world around us. Or men like Galileo and Newton who contributed to science in a way that forged new spheres of knowledge. Or Pasteur, the microbiologist who laid the foundation for understanding germs, knowledge of which has saved countless lives.These people are the real heroes and the ones who made a real difference in the lives of real people. Nephi, Alma, Ammon or Moroni never did, because they never existed.The Book of Mormon demands that the reader treat it as literal history and the church demands that we study the lives, words, and actions of the people who fill the pages as if they were real. What a tragic waste of time to devote oneself to fiction as if it actually occurred. There is so much beauty, so much that is open to our understanding, so much that has been discovered by men and women who looked around at the natural world and asked questions- and then found real answers.