[And when ye shall receive these things]: There is a period of time when the Book of Mormon will not be available, as noted in verse
3. Therefore, if and when we have the opportunity to receive the Book of Mormon, Moroni charges us with our responsibility toward the text.
[I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true]: “These things” comprise the whole of the text of the Book of Mormon. In what sense is the Book of Mormon true? One of the definitions of true is that it is the opposite of false. The Book of Mormon would therefore be true as long as it is not false. That definition is not satisfying, for it would allow us to concentrate on the wrong aspects of true.
The meaning of true in this verse cannot be separated from what might be true. That is, what part of the Book of Mormon does Moroni consider true? We know that Moroni does not consider true to mean an absence of errors. In the Title Page, Moroni tells us: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men”.
It is also doubtful that Moroni considered true to mean historically accurate. There is no doubt that he would have assumed that his record was historically accurate, but that would not be the thrust of the account. Should we find historical errors, and we do find some discernible historical errors of interpretation in Mormon’s writings, that still does not constitute making the text false in the way that Moroni is indicating.
]and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.]: This is the evidence for type of trueness That Moroni declares for the Book of Mormon. It is true in that it correctly portrays the purposes of God. It is true in the same sense that the gospel is true, that the principle of faith is true. The trueness is one that is discernible by the spirit and confirmable by the Spirit. For Moroni, the whole of the Book of Mormon could be determined to accurately reflect Mesoamerican archaeology, and that would not constitute being true. The only way that one may know if it is true is to have the confirmation of the Holy Ghost.
[And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.]: The function of the Holy Ghost is to be a testator, and to confirm truth. It is a powerful witness in that it can provide the witness of faith where there is no available proof. If faith is the: “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1), then it is the Holy Ghost that provides that substance and evidence. The Book of Mormon can be confirmed to be true even if there is never a single historical correlation between the text and dirt archaeology.
Does this mean that this more academic type of evidence and substance does not exist? No. Does it mean that we do not need to seek for it? Not exactly. There are many for whom such evidence is wholly unnecessary. There are those for whom all of the available correlations are insufficient to induce faith. The role of placing the Book of Mormon in a historical context is not for proof, but for depth. We do not believe it is true because it fits into the Mesoamerican milieu, but we can understand better the motivations and actions described in the text if we see it in that cultural milieu. We gain the benefit of that depth of understanding without the requirement of academic proof, for that function is fulfilled by the Holy Ghost.