Excerpts from the Q&A session immediately following
"Archeology, Relics, and Book of Mormon Belief"
John E. Clark
Professor of Anthropology and Director of the New World Archeological Foundation, BYU
(Delivered 25 May 2004 in the de Jong Concert Hall, BYU)
Time: c. 7 mins.]
[Question from audience member:] Do you have any views on the idea that the people described in the Book of Mormon are the principal ancestors of the group of people we call today Native Americans and Polynesians? Any views you'd be willing to express on that?
[John Clark:] I'm glad you clarified that. Of course—I'm an opinionated person. ... They may actually have some blood and DNA from these Mesoamericans, so calling them and considering them literal descendants could have some validity. But basically their tradition has nothing to do with Book of Mormon peoples.
[Question from same audience member:] "Their tradition"—Native Americans? [Clark nods approvingly in response.] Polynesians—do you have any views about them?
[John Clark:] I don't think they're involved in any way. But some people do. And that's all a question of how they, of how they figure out the geography. So they think that Hagoth took off to the South Seas, other people think that he just went up to Acapulco and then never came back. Well, would you come back from Acapulco?
[Mp3 Time: c. 24 mins.]
[John Clark:] Those who choose not to believe it [i.e., the Book of Mormon] will never believe it; those who choose to believe it already do. ...
But I'm, I would never tell anybody to try to prove the Book of Mormon is true through physical evidence, just because of the way metaphysics and epistemology work—it's not possible. And so, you have to get the testimony some other way, and then the evidence will become very clear. If you're on the opposing side you can say we basically just, ah, brained washed ourselves (one or two words inaudible). You're free to think that—we're not doing anybody any harm.
Time: c. 26 mins.]
[John Clark:] And, no, I can't convince any of my archeology colleagues that the evidence proves the BoMor is true. They have read it, but they just read it like they're reading an archeology book, and that's not going to go anywhere.
Time: c. 41 mins.]
[John Clark:] Well, for example, you had this flap about DNA recently. ... The DNA question is never going to be a problem. It only works one way, and in our favor. But the only reason that it looked like a flap or a problem is because they say: Well, Mormons believe (first of all they tell us what we believe) Mormons believe that all Indians in North and South America descended from these people who came over that are described in the Book of Mormon. I grew up believing that—but that's false, that's absolutely wrong.
And so once you say there were other people here, you say: OK, where were the Nephites, and how many more people were here. We have all kinds of other DNA signatures to worry about all of a sudden. It may be that we never find any Hebrew DNA (whatever that looks like) in the New World. ... But if we do find some, that's fine; if we don't find some, that's fine too. There's no way that negative evidence on that hurts the Book of Mormon whatsoever once you believe in a limited geography. If you believe in a global geography, you're basically done, toasted, game over.
Time: c. 49 mins.]
[John Clark:] If a general authority—I don't care who it is—says something that contradicts the Book of Mormon, I do not accept it. ... So nothing that they can say on the matter, other than the prophet saying "Thus saith the Lord," matters to me at all.
[Question from Richard Jensen, BYU associate professor of church history:] What if the general authority is Joseph Smith? How about then? The statements he's made placing [...] [Jensen is cutoff by Clark's response.]
[John Clark:] He was all over the map. ... The Book of Mormon is truer than Joseph Smith ever realized. What that means is Joseph Smith didn't understand the book that he translated.
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