Mormon Scholar, Dan Peterson, Misrepresents Mormon Reality


Paul Derengowski, ThM



Dan Peterson

If there is one thing which is characteristic of all Mormons it is the belief that what is purported to have occurred in the Book of Mormon is historically true. That Reformed Egyptian Jewish American Indians once dotted the North American landscape, with two specific rivaling factions eventually terminating each others existence in upstate New York around the Hill Cumorah. Yet, no one, Mormon and non-Mormon alike, has ever discovered any historical artifact to back up such a belief.

Another characteristic of the Mormon scholarly apologist is the propagation that historical evidence does exist, even though no Mormon scholar has ever produced anything tangible to back up the propaganda. Most recently this occurred when Dr. Daniel Peterson decided to tell the readership of the Mormon Times, “Like early Christianity, though, Mormonism rests on historical claims about people and events, not on theological speculations. It rises or falls on whether certain things happened. Deductions from those events are secondary. The reality of the events is primary.” 1

Of course, Peterson fails to provide anything to support his claim, even though he is correct in that historical reality is an imperative to substantiate the claims of religious reality, especially when the religion relies on real-life human events as the foundation for livelihood. Yet again, no one at any time has ever been able to locate a Nephite or Lamanite “cement” city, nor has anyone at any time ever located a Nephite or Lamanite arrowhead, piece of pottery, coinage, or anything else which would be consistent with the monolithic cultures purported to have existed during the time period described in the Book of Mormon (from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D.).

In fact, at one time, Mormon archaeologist Thomas Ferguson spent 20 years of his life combing the jungles of Mesoamerica, only to conclude that there was no physical evidence to support Book of Mormon claims. Why Mesoamerica? Because contemporary Mormon scholars know that nothing exists in North America to support Book of Mormon claims and have since turned their attention southward in hopes of finding something. Yet, as Dee F. Green declared,

The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists. Titles on books full of archaeological half-truths, dilettante on the peripheries of American archaeology calling themselves Book of Mormon archaeologists regardless of their education, and a Department of Archaeology at BYU devoted to the production of Book of Mormon archaeologists do not insure that Book of Mormon archaeology really exists. The Book of Mormon studies, and archaeology is really there so we can study archaeology, but the two are not wed. At least they are not wed in reality since no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography.” 2

To which Ferguson concluded, “I, for one, would be happy if Dee were wrong.” 3

So, while Peterson continues the propaganda, he does so by misleading his audience. Mormons may assert that the Book of Mormon based on history, but history is a nemesis of the Book of Mormon. It is the proverbial Achilles heel, especially when one gets beyond all the subjective emotionalism that most Mormons wish potential adherents to the message of Joseph Smith become entangled. For all one has to do is ask the Petersons, who wish to continue the ruse, is “Show me the evidence.” What typically follows will either be a blank stare and dead silence or an immediate shifting of the conversation, accompanied by a personal attack.

No, Dr. Peterson, there is no historical evidence to corroborate the claims of the Book of Mormon, and you know it. If there was, then persons such as yourself would be doing all you could to make sure that everyone, from the secular media to all the major theological academic communities, knew about it. But, as it was when Joseph Smith invented Mormonism, you are left peddling intellectually dishonest propaganda, that while it may make some “feel good” about the Mormon religion, it is bereft of the truth. If you disbelieve me, then once again, “Show me the evidence.” It’s as simple as that.


  1. “Mormonism relies on historical events.” (accessed 2/17/2011).
  2. Cited in Stan Larson’s Quest for the Golden Plates (Salt Lake City: Freethinker Press, 2004), 211.
  3. Ibid., 212.

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