John and Gregory Welch write that one of the plainest statements ever made about the roles of the Spirit and scholarly evidence in knowing and stating the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon was made by Elder B. H. Roberts. He stated:
This [the Holy Ghost] must ever be the chief source of evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary to this, the primary and infallible. No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place… .
To be known, the truth must be stated and the clearer and more complete the statement is, the better opportunity will the Holy Spirit have for testifying to the souls of men that the work is true… .
Secondary evidences in support of truth, like secondary causes in natural phenomena, may be of firstrate importance, and mighty factors in the achievement of God’s purposes. (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1909), 2:vi-vii, viii.)
[John W. Welch & J. Gregory Welch, Charting the Book of Mormon: Visual Aids for Personal Study and Teaching, F.A.R.M.S., Chart 7]
Note* Is this phenomenon called “the power of the word”? [Alan C. Miner, Personal Notes]
“Ye May Know the Truth of All Things”
In Moroni 10:4-5 we find the prophetic promise:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; 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.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Daniel Peterson makes the following commentary:
If Joseph Smith really had sixty pounds or so of engraved gold plates, and if there were no historical Nephites, where did he get those plates? Who made them? But if there were plates--and I think that the case for their existence is overwhelming--then it becomes very likely indeed that there were Nephites and that Joseph was actually visited by a real Moroni. I know from conversations with critics of the Book of Mormon that the physical reality of the plates constitutes a serious problem for them, one that many of them would prefer to ignore. But they can’t… .
The Book of Mormon has similar power and is easier to talk about. The most remarkable thing to me about the Book of Mormon is that it reads like plausible history. I have read a great deal of history from a number of different cultures, including several in the ancient and medieval Near East. The book of Mormon’s account of the development and decline of several ancient peoples seems to me entirely reasonable and true to what I know. Yet, if the book’s critics are to be believed, it should not. The Book of Mormon should have collapsed decades ago as a transparent fraud, even without the rigorous and often hostile criticism to which it has constantly been subjected. Had this book merely been the work of an unlettered upstate New York yokel and charlatan, it would have collapsed. But it has not, and it fails to show any of the telltale signs of pretense. The Book of Mormon is, for example, sober and realistic, and never strains for effect… . when I first read John L. Sorenson’s classic book, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, the thing that most impressed me was not that the Book of Mormon can believably be related to locations in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, although it can, but that it yields a coherent and consistent geographical picture at all. Again, if the book’s critics were correct, it would be a mere mass of confusion. (Fawn Brodie claimed that the Book of Mormon simply gushed forth “like a spring freshet” from the “marvelously fecund imagination” of an unreflective New York farmboy who had never really had a serious thought in his head.) … [Daniel C. Peterson, “Shall We Not Go On in So Great a Cause?” in Susan E. Black ed. Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-Day Scholars, pp. 131-135]