Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Two arguments for Great Lakes model not conclusive’

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Published: Monday, Dec. 13 2010 5:30 a.m. MST

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Charlottesville, VA

That's all fine and good, but what about the glaring fact that a Great Lakes model is in the middle of a continent? How did they get there across the open ocean in a boat and still have the impression that they were on "an isle of the sea" (2 Nephi 10:20)? And if it's taking place around New York and Ontario, why is there no mention of snow in the Book of Mormon except figuratively?

I'd like to hear any possible answers to these questions if there are any. Otherwise, let's move on to the Mesoamerican model.

Miami Area, Fl

Sincere question.

Joseph Smith found the plates at Cumorah in New York.

Plates translated into BOM refer to Hill Cumorah.

Why would anyone even begin to think that the Cumorah where the plates were found would not be the exact same Cumorah as referred to in the plates?

Below is a statement that that combines logic and common sense in the matter.

In 1953, Mark E. Petersen of the Quorum of the Twelve stated:

I do not believe that there were two Hill Cumorahs, one in Central America and the other one up in New York, for the convenience of the Prophet Joseph Smith, so that the poor boy would not have to walk clear to Central America to get the gold plates.

Did the theory of 2 hills only come about because there was not physical evidence found at the hill in NY?

Lehi, UT

Another great article Mike. The DNA studies were very enlightening, especially in light of your past articles, and your language discussions are always excellent.

I believe Indigenous Americans intermarried often and migration was culturally important. The Hopi, for example, say they came across waters and migrated from the south, and others came by the "back door," across ice. Dine legends tell of coming from the north. Both tribes have intermixed.

@Ivic last week, hope you return. If you read the resources Mike suggested you know our critics are often less than honest. They're up to the same shenanigans here. Sometimes, when repeatedly caught misconstruing, they disappear and maybe return with new accounts, pretending to be searching etc. It's fun, and sorry I read your comment too quickly and assumed.

I love critics, especially because they helped lead me to the Gospel. I was attending several Churches, dating a "born again" etc, and decided to truly investigate their claims about LDS family.

@scientist, hopefully Mike will throw in Greek words next week, to keep you coming back ; ).
You must not be reading my comments about your repeating idea that Jesus brags...if I only knew Greek... ; )

One Jesus.

Scottsbluff, NE

One of the problems with migrations and intermarrying is that there is a distinct DNA marker in the northern regions not found in Meso-America.

This complicates whichever Book of Mormon geography theory is considered.

A troubling aspect of Michael Ash's article is the use of the word Lamanite.

Look at the Doctrine and Covenants.

D&C 28:8 And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them

The first LDS mission to the Lamanites went to people who have that DNA marker not found south of the border.


D&C 57:1 "Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your God..."

4 "Wherefore, it is wisdom that the land should be purchased by the saints, and also every tract lying westward, even unto the line running directly between Jew and Gentile..."

Missouri was the western boundary of the United States at that time. West of it was Indian country. The line running between was the Missouri border. And the Lord called the Indians west of it "Jews".

But Michael Ash's article says it was only Joseph Smith's words.

Provo, Ut

The Northern continent presents a number of problems for the Book of Mormon, so Church defenders began broadening their scope of the Nephite territories. Between DNA and conflicting archaeology another problem arose, the lack of evidence in a field that was widely growing. In defense apologists theorized a limited geography, which tries to force the lack of evidence equation back into a "needle-in-a-haystack" of sorts. The two Cummorah's theory is strictly a contrivance that strains credulity, and is yet necessary for any alternative model. Why would Cummorah be necessary if the plates weren't intended to be transmitted through a historical deposit?

We can argue semantics over what constitutes a "Lamanite", but Joseph Smith also addressed geography. In the Zelph account Joseph placed the last great battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites around the Missouri area. Furthermore he described the reputation of a Lamanite that went from Missouri to the eastern sea. Lastly, and to further complicate, according to Brigham Young Moroni dedicated the ground for the Temple in Manti Utah. It is clear that early Church Prophets assert revelation in support of a northern geography. This presents a real problem for apologists.

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

Thanks again Mike!

Mike's first point discussed the meanings of certain words in the BofM. Apologists often claim that certain words in the BofM could actually have different meanings than we may assume them to have today.

But the problem with word meanings in the BofM is related to the translation process. As LDS, we grew up with the idea that JS looked at old world characters on the plates and through the Urim Thummim translated them into english.

But witnesses to the translation process state that JS put his seer stone into a hat and placing his face over the had to exclude the light actual words and sentences appeared to him. They disappeared only after he was confident his scribes had written them down exactly as he saw them.

This is not an anti-Mormon argument. I first learned of this process from a talk given by an apostle in the MTC. The talk can be found at LDS dot org. But for some reason this translation process is never mentioned in LDS correlation materials.

JS received the exact words via the seer stone/hat process. There really should be no issues with word "meanings".

layton, Ut

Mike Ash,"Not only are some words ambiguous,some words actually can mean opposite things depending on the context. Following are just a few[Biblical] examples":
"And Ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing"James 2:3 KJV)
"If you show special attention to a man wearing fine clothes..."(James 2:3 NIV)

"The angels which kept not their first estate" (arche).(Jude 6 KJV).
The angels who were once pure and holy but turned to a life of sin.(Jude 6 LB)
Fallen angels, nothing to do with preexistence, or a second estate. Poor translation by KJV.

a holy nation a peculiar people(1 Peter 2:9)
a holy nation a people belonging to God(1 peter 2:9 NIV)

the Firstborn(prototokos) over creation. (Col 1:15 Greek N.T) refers to his to position . To the Hebrew, it meant the son who had preeminence. "I will also appoint my firstborn'(Psalm 89:27) verse 20,"I found David",was not literally the firstborn son. First-created in Greek is protoktisis.

Mike Ash makes a good argument for the need of modern translations of the Bible in the Mormon Chruch.

Magajuwin 1
Scottsbluff, NE

it is nice to know that a man can preach apostasy words. just to make his point. D&C 28 and 57 were the lords word choice and not mans. if you believe in the B of M. than you must repent. For you are despising us and doing like it states in 3 Nephi 16:8-12, 3 Nephi 20: 15-16,20-21.
You can say what you want but when you took the church from us and place a million dollar one in rapid city. You have now fullfilled the words of christ. who be unto you, you must repent or face the lords wraith. be advised it will be given unto us and we will be as lions. Wake up and repent.

Bountiful, UT

It's interesting that all of these theories to explain the BoM require redefining words or subscribing to irrational explanations. The take away from most of Ash's writings is that 1) the scriptures cannot be trusted since the words written there could mean just about anything; and 2) the prophets cannot be trusted because we never know when they are speaking as a prophet or a man and again their words could be twisted to mean anything. Getting a straight answer from Ash is like nailing jello to a wall.

At some point you have to sit back and ask yourself, why doesn't any of this make sense? Why would a book that is supposed to give us clarity and understanding be clouded in so much confusion? Would God expect his children to find salvation only by believing in such nonsensical things? Why do people ignore the one theory that does answer all of the questions? The answer that fits with the evidence and circumstances surrounding the Book of Mormon. The theory is of course the theory that the whole thing is made up. Please at least be open to such a possibility.

las vegas, nv

jm - for some reason last week i was not able to post a comment i tried several times but it wouldn't work. i will look up the resources you suggested. thanks

kaysville, ut

Mr. Ash. if you read this, can you please answer a few questions that I have about these Great Lakes theories.

1) Can somebody please show me where Moroni ever referred to that hill in New York as the hill Cummorah? I only see references from others...way after the fact.

2) I've heard that the current site for the "Hill Cummorah" is acutally not the hill where Joseph acutally obtained the plates.

3) How did Hagoth sail to the islands of the Pacific and back several times from the Great Lakes?

4) If Alma and his people can walk from the land of Nephi to Zarahemla in 12 days, why did it take Joseph Smith and the Men of Zion's Camp three months to cover that same distance (supposing the Great Lakes Theory is true)

5) Lastly, if Moroni witnessed the complete destruction of his people at Cummorah, and was being relentlessly hunted by the Lamanite armies, why would he just hang around that spot for the next 35 years waiting to bury the plates? Logic indicates that an experienced soldier like him would get as far from there as possible.

Waikiki Gal
Waimanalo, HI

I think it might be time for the Church to step in and officially pull the plug on these articles. I think they may be causing some confusion by publishing Mr. Ash's theories in a Church owned newspaper.

Lehi, UT

I think the Mesoamerican theory arose because it fits best with abundant internal and external BoM evidence, but the NA theory has some merit, and shouldn't be dismissed without discussion.

Those crying "no evidence" mislead, again...: )

@Cowboy, JB, MikeM, IC(congrats on rereading the BoM, think I will too) etc, i fel Mike soundly defines Lamanites, and has offered several explanations on how they got to NA. We spent some time discussing Lamanites and the translation process (hat etc) months ago, discussed X DNA also, check those out if you havent yet.

Mike (books, on FAIR etc) and others offer quality discussions of how the NY hill came to be called Cumorah etc. We must remember that JS probably understood the DC and other issues better than most, (of course Mormon knew more and Moroni, etc)but JS apparently believed BoM peoples were in Mesoamerica, and thought Palenque may be a BoM city etc.

The BoM describes migrations, northward movement, etc. However, even JS didnt claim revelation on the issues, but offered several differing opinions.

Ivic: welcome back. Sometimes you have to edit to get posted, only get4, I was glad Mike offered resources lw.

Waikiki Gal
Waimanalo, HI

These articles are an attempt to redefine the clear language of the BoM, and what has been taught by our apostles and prophets. I really have to wonder what the purpose of these articles really is.

Scottsbluff, NE

Lamanites were already defined in the Doctrine and Covenants. The use of the word Lamanite in the D&C is argued as Joseph Smith's word choice at FAIR.

That is the same as denying the words of the Lord.

lake forest, ca

JM, Joseph Smith had help,In Historian Quinn,s book,"Mormonism and the Magic World View," has said that various parts of the plan of salvation were taken by Joseph Smith, Jr. from Emanuel Swedenborg's book Heaven and Hell. In the book,Swedenborg wrote that "There are three heavens" that are "entirely distinct from
each other. He called the highest heaven "the Celestial Kingdom and stated that the inhabitants of the three heavens corresponded to the "sun, moon and stars." Swedenborg's book also mentions a veil, spirit prison and celestial marriage.
Quinn states that the book was available to Smith, and that he was familiar with it. One account claims that Smith told Latter Day Saint convert
Edward Hunter that "Emanuel Swedenborg had a view of the world to come, but for daily food he perished. also, Quinn says that the book was in the Palmyra public library beginning in 1817, and that 9 miles from Smith's farm.

Temple City, CA

I think that the purpose for this series of articles is very clear. It is to provide insight into the various theories of possible Book of Mormon locations. No one knows where the Book of Mormon happened, so this is purely for fun and the intellectual exercise. It should not affect anyone's testimony in any way.

There are those who suggest that, given their own confusion, "educated people" must conclude that the Book of Mormon is false because Latter-day Saints enjoy speculating about such things as the location of Book of Mormon events. Speaking as an educated Mormon, I can say that there is no reason at all to conclude that the Book of Mormon is false.

By the way, I have not gotten any impression that Michael Ash believes in the "Great Lakes Theory," so there should be no reason to chastize him about it. Explaining a theory (with some objectivity, I might add) does not imply advocacy.

Idaho Coug
Meridian, Idaho

JM - I have stated in the past that I appreciate your testimony. I wonder though if you have any unanswered questions about the BofM? I know many who have a strong testimony but also have questions that they either have had to set aside and/or are exercising faith to overcome.

It seems that you are able to brush aside any question about the BofM with the explanation that it has already been answered or must be a false accusation. Is that because you have struggled through each one and come to a satisfactory explanation or is your testimony such that you know any and all arguments must somehow be false and explanable? It seems that you look at evidence and consider it rock solid while other believers, including Ash, seem to consider it parallel and something that strengthens or increases the likelihood but not necessarily absolute.

Again, not attacking just interested in how you approach this stuff. And frankly I think you represent that vast majority of active LDS. Members who have serious questions or even think along the lines of an apologist are much fewer in number.

the truth
Holladay, UT

RE: Chachi

I answered yout question about "isles" last week.

"Isle" is used to refer to a coastal land, coastal nation, or a coastal city,

there are many examples of it being used that way by the people of that time in the old testament.

and Jacobs parents were from the Old world,

Since ship sailed from the west sea and no mention of them from the east sea,

and sciptures seemto mention there was deep waters tothe west,

that seems to imply the west sea was much larger and deeper than the east sea, that they knew the east sea did not go any where.

so is east a lake or bay?

and we know the BOM people lived on an "Isle" or coastal place as mentioned by Jacob,

and we know several cities were sunk just before Christ came to america.

That all seems to imply some where along the west coast of the americas.

I believe the narrow_neck mentioned by the jaredites, isa feature, greatly over exagerrated by BOM map makers and_has no great significance other than_a great city was built nearby, there's no mention it_even separated the north and south lands, just_was central.

Bill in Nebraska
Maryville, MO

To Idaho Cougar:

Sure there are always questions as to where the Book of Mormon took place. Where are the ancestors and even are there actual ruins? These have come up time to time but I look at this way, if the Lord meant for us to know it he would have provided a way for us to know. It is thus sufficient for me to know that by faith I can know the trueth of all things. It is through faith that we can learn the mysteries of God. That in and of itself allows me to put such questions aside and learn for what the Book of Mormon is for, Another Testament to the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

To cmtam: If the book is written by a man that has never studied much less read the Book of Mormon but is basing his point that it was around Joseph Smith then all I have to say is that it is rubbish. Trying to explain where the revelation came from is like me trying to decide whether Moses or Abraham were the greater prophet. It doesn't mean beans.

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