When a religion makes claims about history, then that makes the religion testable and verifiable as to the trustworthiness of the claims of the religion. The claims of Christianity as centered around the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Not only is it indisputable by a supermajority of scholars that Jesus existed, but the majority of scholars also accept the facts surrounding his crucifixion and resurrection. This is due to a number of things, including the fact that Hostile Ancient Non-Biblical Testimony Related to Jesus Confirms the Gospel Accounts.
The Book of Mormon also makes claims of history. Just a brief summary from the Wikipedia page on the Historicity of the Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon purports to give an account of two civilizations formed by families who migrated to the Americas. One group of families came from Jerusalem in 600 BC and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. Another group came much earlier, when God confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel; that group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites. Latter Day Saints claim that Lamanites are among the ancestors of the Native Americans.
How well do these claims hold up? Again, a brief summary from the same page (emphasis mine):
Many members of the Latter Day Saint movement claim historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Most, but not all, Mormons hold the book’s connection to ancient American history as an article of their faith. This view finds no acceptance outside of Mormonism. The theory that the Book of Mormon is an ancient American history is not accepted as scientifically verifiable by the mainstream academic community. Mormon apologists have proposed multiple theories to explain apparent inconsistencies with the archaeological, genetic, linguistic and other records.
If the Book of Mormon were true, there would be external evidence to support it. (Wintery Knight has a great article on How to Falsify a Religion Using Scientific or Historical Evidence that’s relevant here.)
It’s in light of this, that at least one person reached out to the National Geographic Society to get their opinion on the Book of Mormon. From their short response (archived at Institute for Religious Research’s website):
Yet Smith’s narration is not generally taken as a scientific source for the history of the Americas. Archaeologists and other scholars have long probed the hemisphere’s past, and the Society does not know of anything found so far that has substantiated the Book of Mormon.
In fact, students of prehistoric America by and large conclude that the New World’s earliest inhabitants arrived from Asia via the Bering “land bridge.” (Lower sea levels during ice ages exposed the continental shelf beneath Bering Strait, allowing generations of ancient Siberians to migrate east.)
In addition, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History has also issued statements on the historicity of the Book of Mormon. A letter is both archived at the Institute For Religious Research as well as at Evidence for God. The letter was a response to an “inquiry concerning the Smithsonian Institution’s alleged use of the Book of Mormon as a scientific guide” in the Smithsonian’s Department of Anthropology.
The statement includes 8 points:
1. The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide. Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book.
2. The physical type of the American Indian is basically Mongoloid, being most closely related to that of the peoples of eastern, central, and northeastern Asia. Archeological evidence indicates that the ancestors of the present Indians came into the New World–probably over a land bridge known to have existed in the Bering Strait region during the last Ice Age–in a continuing series of small migrations beginning from about 25,000 to 30,000 years ago.
3. Present evidence indicates that the first people to reach this continent from the East were the Norsemen who briefly visited the northeastern part of North America around A.D. 1000 and then settled in Greenland. There is nothing to show that they reached Mexico or Central America.
4. One of the main lines of evidence supporting the scientific finding that contacts with Old World civilizations, if indeed they occurred at all, were of very little significance for the development of American Indian civilizations, is the fact that none of the principal Old World domesticated food plants or animals (except the dog) occurred in the New World in pre-Columbian times. American Indians had no wheat, barley, oats, millet, rice, cattle, pigs, chickens, horses, donkeys, camels before 1492. (Camels and horses were in the Americas, along with the bison, mammoth, and mastodon, but all these animals became extinct around 10,000 B.C. at the time when the early big game hunters spread across the Americas.)
5. Iron, steel, glass, and silk were not used in the New World before 1492 (except for occasional use of unsmelted meteoric iron). Native copper was worked in various locations in pre-Columbian times, but true metallurgy was limited to southern Mexico and the Andean region, where its occurrence in late prehistoric times involved gold, silver, copper, and their alloys, but not iron.
6. There is a possibility that the spread of cultural traits across the Pacific to Mesoamerica and the northwestern coast of South America began several hundred years before the Christian era. However, any such inter-hemispheric contacts appear to have been the results of accidental voyages originating in eastern and southern Asia. It is by no means certain that even such contacts occurred; certainly there were no contacts with the ancient Egyptians, Hebrews, or other peoples of Western Asian and the Near East.
7. No reputable Egyptologist or other specialist on Old World archeology, and no expert on New World prehistory, has discovered or confirmed any relationship between archeological remains in Mexico and archeological remains in Egypt.
8. Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew, and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared in newspapers, magazines, and sensational books. None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars. No inscriptions using Old World forms of writing have been shown to hare occurred in any part of the Americas before 1492 except for a few Norse rune stones which have been found in Greenland.
How does archaeology compare to the Bible? The archaeological evidence that supports the Bible is so extensive, there doesn’t seem to be a complete list because the list would be too long. I’ve tried finding one. I’ve even asked around. And that’s the answer I’ve gotten. Wikipedia has an extensive list but it’s not complete. J. Warner Wallace has compiled a brief sampling, and Peter S. Williams has a brief sampling as well (shared via Wintery Knight). I’ve written about archaeological evidence for Abraham, the Exodus, and King David. J. Steve Lee has compiled a list of 53 people confirmed in the Old Testament. To get more detailed, Erik Manning has a list of 84 ways archaeology has helped confirm the last 16 chapters of Acts (that’s an average of 5 confirmations a chapter!).
Josh McDowell points out:
Thanks to archeological finds, most of the ancient cities mentioned in the book of Acts have been identified. The journeys of Paul can now be accurately traced as a result of these finds. In all, Luke names 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands without error!
Concerning Luke’s ability as a historian, Sir William Mitchell Ramsey, one of the greatest archeologists to have ever lived, said, after 30 years of study, that, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.”
So the Bible is rich in archaeological confirmation, while all the evidence is against the Book of Mormon. There doesn’t appear to be any historical truth to the Book of Mormon. If it makes claims about history but the history is against it, then it fails a truth test. One cannot even make a minimal facts argument for it. (It also fails verification by science and philosophy.)
As an atheist, when J. Warner Wallace started investigating the evidence for Christianity, he also investigated the evidence for Mormonism. Evidence is what let him to accept Christianity but reject Mormonism. He provides a handy 6 step guide to investigating the evidence for Mormonism.