Comments about ‘Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: A short history of LDS Mesoamerican scholars’

Return to article »

Published: Monday, Feb. 14 2011 6:30 a.m. MST

  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Most recommended
Full-on double rainbow
Bluffdale, UT

I can summarize this one: Dudes made some lasting friendships in college. Started an archeological organization. Had fun. Wrote a manuscript. Manuscript was circulated.

Was there any earth shattering, faith confirming info in this manuscript? Thanks.

Phoenix, AZ

Mesoamerican ancient civiliztions have been studied and the history of the land and people documented as completely as ancient Eygptian history. There are no remanants or parallels with the Book of Mormon lands or people. Scientist have discovered, studied and doucumented ancient civilizations, people and lands thousands of years older than the BOM time. The Mormon God is a God of light, truth and order. There is nothing in the physical world of man that He has hidden from them. The Church has the money and recourses to solve the mystery and explain the question of the physical reality of the BOM location. The sooner they do the better for the church. The same as many of the other changes that have been made, such as who can hold the priesthood. One can imagine what a problem in todays world it would be for the church if they had not had the forsight to correct the priesthood issue when they did. Do what is right and let the consequences follow.

Murray, UT

As far as the SOP for these articles goes, we have another winner. Some interesting thoughts about the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon, but no more. I would like to know if we will be getting more than this at some point, or if this is it.

What we will get is a discussion of whether or not the LDS church has an oficial position on the historical authenticity of the book, and whether or not that is important.

I assume the usual commenters will again make the same arguements they have pade in past articles. I do see a certain level of comraderie in the comments despite differing viewpoints. Maybe that is the purpose of these articles.

Modesto, CA

You can expect a diminishment of focus on the historical instead of an admission of error on the model. Sorenson's culminating work "Mormon's Codex, An Ancient American Book" will seal their fate.

Lehi, UT

Thanks Mike, great article.
Reading Sorenson's work was truly humbling. I enjoyed his article on why BoM geography is important, and how our neglect of it might fit in with our general neglect of the BoM. I also enjoyed his discussions of evidences and explanations. Its enlightening to see how easily the statements of Smithsonian personnel are overturned, and I'm thrilled at our growing BoM knowledge, understanding, and increasingly powerful evidences. I acknowledge that the testimony that doesn't come from flesh and blood is the only one that leads to change and eternal life, yet, understanding the BoM in historical context is thrilling and exciting.

I guess some critical persons may come here making fantastic claims that there is no BoM evidence, or that nothing was of value in Mike's article, or theyll fabricate rumors etc. Its entertaining to explain some of what is really going on with BoM discoveries, but I'm too busy lately. And my new theory is Critics already know they arent being honest, know where to find answers, know they are fabricating and twisting in order to lead astray, etc.
Still love them all though.

John Charity Spring
Alloway, NJ

This article and the comments to it bring to mind a famous quote from Thomas F. Meagher: "The day will come when the outer-fringe of society will attempt to destroy society itself by attempting to destroy the Public Religion."

Without a doubt, Meagher was right. The Founding Fathers knew that, for this Country to be successful, its citizens must recognize the influence of the Public Religion. The Fathers knew that there would be those who sought to destroy the influence of religion, but they hoped that the citizens as a whole would not forget the lessons of the Fathers.

One thing that cannot be determined, is which side of the equation that Ash is really on. He initially appears to be a proponent of these theories, but a closer look reveals that he is attempting to follow in the divisively subversive foot-steps of Hugh Nibley. Ash must finally make a decision about which master he will serve.

ex missionary
Sandy, UT

Is it true that after decades of specialized research Ferguson lost faith in the BOM due to lack of evidence?

Are these quotes accurate?

"I'm afraid that up to this point, I must agree with Dee Green, who has told us that to date there is no Book-of-Mormon geography."
-- Published paper titled "Written Symposium on Book-of-Mormon Geography: Response of Thomas S. Ferguson to the Norman & Sorenson Papers", 1975

"...you cant set Book of Mormon geography down anywhere - because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of dirt-archeology."

--Letter to Mr. & Mrs. H.W. Lawrence, February 20, 1976

Otis Spurlock
Ogden, UT

John Charity Spring,

I agree. I think it is telling that Mr. Ash states in his article that Thomas Ferguson is really the father of the Mesoamerican Theory, but fails to mention that after 27 years of field work in Mesoamerica, Thomas Ferguson came to the conclusion that the BoM is just "fiction".

I'm sure Mr. Ash is aware of Thomas Ferguson and his opinion that the BoM is "fiction". I think there is a subversive reason that Mr. Ash mentioned Thomas Ferguson as the founder of the Mesoamerican Theory.

The reason I think, is that you will find that Mr. Ash is 100% on board with the LGT, which places the Lamanites/Nephites in a very small, limited and isolated geographic region that has yet been explored. The LGT is the current theory of choice for FARMS and FAIR.

Lehi, UT

Im thankful that Mike previously reminded us of Fergusons fall(hes a favorite critic doubting Thomas).

Apparently he fell from clinging to his own preconceptions. He was a lawyer (like one present professional critic) and amateur enthusiast whose extroverted passion and interest in Jakeman's Mesoamerican studies were influential. (Ash calls jakeman the father of BoM archeology.)

It's good to remember falling happens (i.e another attorney who comments is now a leading anti (calls himself a "deconstructor" at ex-files) and fell after only a few weeks of studying now disproven anti-propaganda, same on the linguist etc ) because it reminds me to keep an open mind, study, stay humble, and pray knowing I lack knowledge, pray they don't sift me with assuming dishonesty.

I hope to be ever willing to accept better ideas on things not yet revealed to me.

Two examples: Ive undoubtedly proven to myself the relationship between ME religions etc and Indigenous (havent posted most) but remain open to how etc : ).

On BoM geography I still wonder about east borders, sea, etc, or narrow pass. Reading Mike, Poulsen Sorenson, etc, searching BoM, and finding! Again, the details are impossible for JS to know.

Phoenix, AZ

The Mormon Church is an American Corporation. Other American corporations have to disclose the content and the truth of their products. The Book of Mormon is a product owned and promoted by the Mormon Church, why shouldn't the Church comply with the law of the land in their product disclosure. It is the right thing to do. God is truth.

Provo, Ut


I find it odd that you and others seem to conclude that the route of "humility", is to espouse faith in a religious superstructure, under the pretense of revelation, while insisting all others are either wrong (even partially wrong) or deceitful. The mode and manner of revelation can never be nailed down unambiguously beyond thoughts or subjective emotions and feelings, yet you insist that God speaks to you this way. You call that humble? It is one of the most audacious things I can think of. I tend to think of humility as more of an honest assessment of ones self, or an attempt at hones self-awareness. Confessing the limits of ones own experiences, and not dressing up your fancy in religious hyperbole, that would be humble. Religion is anything but humble, my friend.

As for Ferguson, I believe it was he who finally pinpointed the actual location and origin of Book of Mormon events, when he stated that these things "...occured somewhere in along the gray matter in Joseph Smith's head".

Temple City, CA

I have long felt that Meso-America was the location of the Book of Mormon histories. I believe it's Meso-America.

That belief is nothing like the knowledge of the truthfulness of the book itself. If I found out that I was completely wrong on Meso-America, I could easily shrug off the minor embarrassment of being wrong about something I had never received a personal revelation about, and I would cling just as firmly to those things I know about.

I see many things that make me believe that Meso-America is a likely candidate, but I am reluctant to share them because I am not confident enough about them to fend off attacks. (Do I make myself clear? I can fend off attacks all day long about my witness of the Book of Mormon itself, but I have never been sure about exactly where it happened, and whenever I thought I was sure, I got blasted by people who knew more than I.)

Temple City, CA

To Mormoncowboy: I disagree with your assessment of humility. It is perfectly humble to admit that God has spoken to you. There is no lack of humility in such a statement. It is no more audacious to say that God has spoken to you than it would be for a little child to say, "Daddy told me this."

I also disagree about whether or not the "mode and manner of revelation" can "never" be "nailed down." Both the mode and manner of revelation are very clear and straightforward in scriptural texts. They are quite easy to "nail down."

I agree that an element of humility is honest self-assessment and the willingness to "confess the limits of one's own experience."

However, since most religions require acknowledgement of one's limitations before God, however, that would contradict your assertion that "religioni is anything but humble."

LDS Revelations
Sandy, UT

Fact is after decades of searching for the evidence of the BoM civilizations in the New World there is virtually nothing to show for it. NHM in the middle East IMO is the closest thing there is to any actual hits. From Mike's article one would think that they found Zarahemla, a chariot wheel or at least a steel sword.

I find it interesting too that Thomas Ferguson was the driving force behind the research in Meso-America but after a quarter century of work came to the conclusion that not only was there no BoM archeology in Meso-America but also that the BoM was fiction. You can find copies of letters which he wrote online stating exactly this but for the full story I suggest reading Stan Larson's "Quest for the Gold Plates."

Pickle Juice, The Key to a BCS
Clinton, UT

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be in Mr. Ferguson's position. Here we have a man who devoted so much in the way of time and treasure to prove that the Book of Mormon was true. He wrote so many books defending the Book of Mormon from an archeological point of view. Yet he came to see that archeology and history will not vindicate the book of Mormon. He lost faith in the Book of Mormon completely.

Mr. Ferguson had no faith in the Book of Mormon yet, he still continued to attend church regularly. To those who had questions about the Book of Mormon, he could give answers in either direction. To faithful Mormons seeking faith building material, he could and would give out much information that would confirm them in their faith. To Mormons questioning the historical veracity of the Book of Mormon, he could and would give out much information that would demonstrate the historical and archeological problems involved in the Book of Mormon.

If Ferguson were alive today, he would be pleased at how many are firmly in the Church today, but also share his belief that the BOM is fiction.

Provo, UT


Your claim that God has spoken to you IS arrogant, especially since the scriptures in which you claim to believe state:

"God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34; D&C 1:35; 38:16; Moroni 8:12)

Yet your claim flies in the face of that. You are essentially claiming that God respects YOU enough to talk to YOU, but not to me or Mormoncowboy or billions of others. Is that not arrogant? Or at least hypocritical?

Jesus said,

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt.5:45)

But you believe God plays favorites: that the LDS Church is "the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which [the Lord is] well pleased" (D&C 1:30); that the LDS are "God's elect" and "chosen" people; that the LDS President is the "the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized" to exercise God's power.

Don't insult our intelligence.

Provo, Ut

"I also disagree about whether or not the "mode and manner of revelation" can "never" be "nailed down." Both the mode and manner of revelation are very clear and straightforward in scriptural texts. They are quite easy to "nail down.""

Then please enlighten me. The scriptural texts speak of "burning bosoms" - What is that, exactly?

God will tell us in our "hearts and in our minds" - how? How does one sort out their thoughts so as to discern between those thoughts that are "inspired" and those that come of the person having them. As a side note, I have heard this question many times in Elders Quorum and Gospel Doctrine, suggesting that the general membership is even uncertain here. How does one learn something in their heart, in such a way as not to be emotionally subjective.

The holy ghost shall teach us. Again - how, exactly? How does one sort out the subjectivity without resorting to circular logic.

The only scriptural examples of revelation that cut through reasonable subjectivity are literal visitations from Angels and heavenly beings. Unfortunately very few have the courage to make such claims - but instead assert more certainty than subjectivity warrants. That is not humility!

Provo, UT


At the risk of boasting, I would just like to point out that I (and others like me) will "receive the Kingdom of Heaven".

In Matthew 5:3, Jesus taught:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The words "poor in spirit" speak of abject poverty, a beggarly kind of poverty. 'Ptochos' literally means having nothing, totally broke, empty-handed.

As "believers", many claim to "have something" spiritually: a "testimony", or some other "knowledge" or belief or spirituality of some kind. You claim it to be yours, and you hold it a dear possession.

But (most) atheists like myself do not claim to have anything spiritual: no belief, no testimony, no knowledge, no nothing.

This is what being an atheist means: without a belief in god.

Is there anyone else who can claim to be more "poor in spirit" than that?

And according to Jesus, he said WE inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

To all the "believers" I say, Come visit us sometime. I think we have an extra mansion you can stay in.

the truth
Holladay, UT

RE: Vanka

"poor in spirit" has NOTHIING to do with wealth, God loves the rich and the poor and everyone in between,

Sorry to break to you but it refers to HUMILITY! being humble.

Ferguson is sad story about a man wanting so much to place the BOM in meso-amerca, and could never make it work.

But thats what happens to those who place so much weight in vague geographic details barely mentioned in the BOM, vague details that may no longer exist as they did then.

We have no idea how much has changed over the last 2000 years, and especially since the geographic catastrophy that happend when Christ came.

NONE of anti's, or weak believers have been to find anything in coreect in BOM, especially those things that make it the "most correct book" and those are the gospel principles contained in the BOM

People have been challeging The BOM for 180 years, and have not succeeded.

When you try make it conform to your own view you will always go away sad,

in other words you need to Poor in spirit (humble) to inherit the Kingdon of God.

Henderson, NV

"The Book of Mormon is a product owned and promoted by the Mormon Church, why shouldn't the Church comply with the law of the land in their product disclosure."

What makes you think the Mormon Church knows anything more about the content and truth of the Book of Mormon than what they have already said? They believe that it is ancient scripture, translated by Joseph Smith through the power of God. The general authorities of the church accept the Book of Mormon on faith in the same way as the general membership. What more is there to say?

to comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.
About comments