There is absolutely no way to tell which things recorded in the Old Testament literally happened and which ones didn't - and a reference to something in another scriptural record (or even a prophet's belief that it was literal) doesn't mean it has to be literal. Let me use the
as an example. of Tower Babel
Who wrote the Books of Genesis and Ether, and how were they compiled? We don't know about the author of Genesis, but Ether wrote the Book of Ether - which then was abridged by
. Ether was at least 25 identified generations removed from Jared and his brother, but there are two instances where "descendant" is used instead of "son" - so we don't know how many generations actually separated the first Jaredite and the last one who wrote the record. We have no idea what kind of detail Ether had at his disposal, if it was entirely a written record or partially an oral tradition, who selected the information to include and what interpretation to record, etc. Moroni
All we know is that it covered a very long period of time.
We have no details in the abridgment by
about how Ether recorded his account or its length - or how radically Moroni himself edited Ether's account. All we know is that Moroni 's account was even more selectively sketchy than the record Mormon compiled, since the Book of Ether is much shorter than even the Book of Moroni - while covering a time period that was multiple times longer than the entire rest of the Book of Mormon. Alma
We also have no idea whatsoever the details of what caused the scattering of the people and the confusion of languages mentioned in the Bible and the Book of Mormon; it could have been nothing more miraculous than a great natural disaster that scattered the people - and that scattering inevitably would lead to a divergence of languages among people who didn't take written records with them. No matter what happened, the belief that the Lord was behind it could have been the assumption of a people who believed in that type of divine activity - whether or not they were correct.
Finally, Joseph obviously used his own language and understanding in translating the Book of Mormon. There is no way to tell if the description in Ether 1:33 (where the tower and scattering is mentioned) came from Jared (or his brother), some later descendant, Ether,
or Joseph's ready translation vocabulary. Given what we know of the general process of multi-generational record keeping and translation, the central theme could remain in tact even as many incidental errors and interpretations and allegories and myths crept into the record. Having later prophets reference the accounts codified into scripture says nothing about the literal or figurative nature of the stories - only the lesson that was intended when the stories were written and that can be taken from them. Moroni
What I am saying is that much of the Old Testament before King David and almost the entire Book of Ether could be figurative, inspired mythology without invalidating any of the Church's truth claims. It is not the responsibility of the believer to prove that point; it is the responsibility of the non-believer to give an example of something from the OT that MUST be literal to destroy truth claims. After all, if even Jesus could reference events that now are believed to be not historically accurate but figurative instead - and if he could teach in parables that weren't "historically accurate" - and if earlier prophets might have speaking in stories that functioned as extended parables that later generations might have taken as real accounts - why should Prophets now and in the past be held to an even higher standard than the Savior employed?
Personally, I have never seen something from those most ancient, canonized records that has to be literal for the Church's current claims to be valid.