Paul R. Cheesman Papers
Photo: Frontal view of Temple I in the main acropolis at Tikal by Paul R. Cheesman, 1972
Dr. Paul Robert Cheesman, well known for his study of ancient American archaeology and ancient scripture, served as an instructor for the Department of Religious Education at Brigham Young University from 1963 to 1986. His extensive, worldwide research concerning The Book of Mormon and other significant ancient texts made him one of the most sought after Latter-day Saint scholars and lecturers of his time. Dr. Cheesman spent his professional life uncovering, collecting, and compiling documents and artifacts concerning America’s pre-Columbian inhabitants. His objective was to find correlating evidences that proved The Book of Mormon’s authenticity. Through scholarship and teaching he synthesized possible correlations and comparisons between ancient documents and LDS religious texts and submitted them to the public, using evidence from archaeological artifacts and sites to support his positions. When asked what he hoped to contribute through his life-long study of evidences to substantiate The Book of Mormon, Dr. Cheesman said, “Archaeological evidences which support The Book of Mormon do not convert, but we would hope that these thought-provoking discoveries might inspire and excite the reader to the point where they would want to study The Book of Mormon with real intent and gain a testimony of its truth. This is my desire.”
The Paul R. Cheesman collection was donated in multiple installments by Mrs. Paul (Millie F.) Cheesman. The collection includes manuscripts (personal and professional papers), publisher’s gallery prints, color transparencies (including 35 mm slides), negatives, color separations, photographs, personal literary materials, research and reference files, audio and visual materials, and historical books, covering over 30 years of research in the ancient Americans, other ancient civilizations, and LDS Church history.
A vast majority of the materials in this collection involve Cheesman’s interest in relating archaeology to The Book of Mormon, LDS Church scripture that was translated from an ancient American source. The papers also contain materials that do not necessarily fall within the LDS tradition, such as photographic documentation of hundreds of archaeological sites across the Americas and in the Near and Middle East, personal photographs, and various archaeological artifact documentation.
Paul Cheesman’s legacy remains not only in his family, but also in his publications and contributions to the academic fields he loved. Cheesman’s life was a constant quest for truth. This journey took him through various research related experiences that allowed him to use both his temporal and spiritual knowledge. As a devout Latter-day Saint, the spiritual side of Dr. Cheesman consistently remained in the forefront of his work. The temporal evidence supplied by archaeological records complimented his religious convictions. By popularizing the study of scriptural archaeology, Cheesman’s work opened the doors for a number of foundations and organizations to maintain the groundwork he laboriously laid throughout his scholarly life. He will forever be remembered as an early pioneer and “popularizer” of Book of Mormon archaeology, a scholar, teacher and true missionary of the Lord.