One thing that has always fascinated me is the tension in the church between faith and proof. We tell people they should pray about the Book of Mormon and receive a testimony of its truth and of the prophet Joseph Smith. And then we spend lots of time and energy trying to prove that they are true.
What do we use as proof? The Lehi stone. Chiasm. The health benefits of the Word of Wisdom. The Civil War beginning in South Carolina. And a thousand whispered rumors like the idea that the Dead Sea scrolls contain the prophecies of Lehi.
I have never been particularly impressed with the proofs suggested of the Book of Mormon or of the Gospel. Maybe it’s my lack of training, but chiasm seems like a real non-starter — all of the examples I’ve ever seen look incredibly forced and clearly ends-driven.
The word of wisdom is similarly unconvincing. As much as members like to profess that Joseph Smith just woke up one day and said “No Alcohol” and everyone else thought “Wow, what a novel idea!” (and I sat through a lesson not a month ago that made exactly that claim), the fact is that temperance movements were well known and a big part of the political climate at that time.
As for the Lehi stone, and every other depiction that is supposed to prove the existence of the Nephites, I find them all very forced as well.
That said, I think that attempts to disprove the church are equally ludicrous. Those 4000 errors in the Book of Mormon? Oh wait, they’re all commas. The Spalding manuscript? Don’t make me laugh.
In fact, all attempts to either prove or disprove the truth of the gospel seem highly misguided, like the attempt to build a tower that reached heaven. We’re not supposed to prove the Book of Mormon’s truth by chiasm and archeology. We’re supposed to take it on faith. And church members’ attempts to prove the gospel true are as doomed to failure as anti-Mormons’ attempts to prove it false.
(Of course, Mormons aren’t alone in their desire to prove the veracity of their religion. I began thinking about this topic (again) when I got an e-mail forwarded of the “NASA finds Bible proof” hoax, which is certainly not of LDS origin — though we seem to like it as much as any other Christian church.)