Tower To Truth Question:
9. Can you show me archeological and historical proof from non-Mormon sources that prove that the peoples and places named in the Book of Mormon are true?
This question is based on the mistaken assumption that the Bible message that Jesus is Christ and Lord is somehow "proved" by archeology, which is not true. It also ignores differences between Old and New World archeology. For example, since we don't know how to pronounce the names of ANY Nephite-era city in the American archeological record, how would we know if we had found a Nephite city or not?
To learn more: Archeology and the Bible
For physical Book of Mormon evidence specifically, see:
Old World geography
Another smokescreen. Of course the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord is not proven by archeology. But by the same token, we are not to rely solely on a "burning in the bosom" (D&C 9:8), or "I just feel Him in my heart." The Holy Spirit led Peter to admonish us to Always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is in you (1st Peter 3:15). In other words, if someone asks you why you believe what you believe, be ready to tell them why, don't just rely on your feelings. Peter says to "give a defense." And doesn't the Psalmist say that The heavens declare the glory of God? (Psalm 19:1) What all this means is that God has given us a universe of evidence that we can point to and say, "This is why I believe," then tell them why.
That said, let's look at the evidence--or lack thereof--for the events chronicled in the Book of Mormon. This is a tricky matter, because determining the location of the great and final battle supposedly written about in Mormon 6 has been a sore spot for the LDS church over the years. For many years following the publication of the BOM, the LDS church assumed that the Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith "found the golden plates" was the same Cumorah where the final battle in Mormon 6 took place. However, they later found that they could not match the geography of Mormon 6 to the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. No evidence anywhere. No evidence--not one shred--that a battle involving over 200,000 soldiers took place in upstate New York. So, out the window went that theory.
Later, they decided that, well, maybe it happened in Central America. New problem (actually, another example of a problem with the first theory). There has never been even one shred of evidence that the people of Central America used horses, chariots, brass, gold, or any kind of metal in their weapons at the time these events supposedly took place.
Which is why they have had to take their current stance: We cannot determine where the "New World" events in the Book of Mormon took place, so we'll just say it doesn't matter, that it's not important. Well, it IS important. If the Bible says that Abraham traveled east from Jerusalem and wound up in Scotland, what would that say about the credibility of the Bible? It would go out the window. So accuracy in science, geography, etc is important in establishing the credibility of a book claiming to come from God. After all, if God didn't know where Zarahemla was, He wouldn't be all-knowing, would He?
One of the sticking points for skeptics of the Bible over the years was the supposed lack of archeological evidence. Many years ago it was that Belshazzar was never a king in Babylon. However, more recent discoveries have been unearthed which tell of a co-regent in Babylon named Belshazzar. See, archeology bolsters the credibility of the Bible. It would do the same for the BOM.
Now, consider this: The LDS church says that we are to simply believe that BOM is true, that everything that happened in it is true. Yet if the geography and archeology do not match up with facts, then one could rightly question other things the book claims (see the "Earth resting on an elephant" example above). Now, I will give them this: Some of the "Old World" places mentioned in the BOM are close to actual names. But anyone could have found these places by looking at a map and giving even a cursory reading to an atlas of the Arabian Peninsula, even in Joseph Smith's day.
So why didn't he do the same thing when writing about the "New World?" Well, it's one thing to claim that a family travelled from this city to that city, etc. But to claim that a huge battle involving 200,000+ men outfitted with brass shields and metal weapons and thousand of horses took place in a location that could be easily excavated and found to have no evidence backing up the claim? Not such a good idea. So he had to come up with some imaginary names so nobody would be able to examine the claims.