The fight over Book of Mormon geography

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  • DiscernIt
    June 8, 2010 9:18 a.m.

    So in reading these comments I see many on and off sides of the actual topic of discussion. Many of them are very well said wether they be blatant attacks on specific points of LDS doctrine in what is believed, as well as on topic discussion. Either way most of it is really pointless. Most believe what they believe and would rather not change their opinions or beliefs to fit what someone else may say. I don't bend just because another point is brought up unless I can discern for myself that it is correct. Now there is a big word and it may just be a misunderstood word... discern. Each individual must discern for themselves what they see to be correct however in items of discussion such as the geography, the prophets have said that it really is not important to our salvation. So it really doesn't matter where it all took place. I like being able to picture in my mind as well where things MAY have taken place but who really cares if WHERE I am picturing is correct. The important thing is that I am learning what I need to learn.

  • JM
    May 30, 2010 7:03 p.m.

    Again, Mesomerica fits impossibly, as I noted above, but just noticed the anti-Mormon off topic discussion of word prints above. There is a great article on FAIR.
    Also, it's important to note that there is probably no such thing as a neutral study on the BoM. One of the "scholars" leading studies against the BoM is said to be an anti-Mormon who had hsi name removed (we all know what that means, he can't leav it alone). In the studies I looked at against the BoM evidence was unfairly manipulated, when they found something they didn't like (Nephi's word print very different from Alma, for example)they removed the words that Nephi used which were distinct and ran teh study again......not very FAIR, sounds like the anis (with their many Usernames, some posing as LDS)here on the DN. They never play fair and will alter documents etc to try to lead you from the love of God. We still love them though, just don't trut them....EVER : )

  • JM
    May 30, 2010 6:32 p.m.

    For me, the Mesoamerican model seems to fit miraculously well. With Sidon as the Grijalva and/or Usumacinta, and mapping from Zarahemla on the river (Santa Rosa?) The seas are definitely East and West, the narrow pass with seas on East and West is right where one would expect it to be if the Alma 50? Party was trying to get around new fortifications as the BoM implies etc. In fact, getting all the details right would be impossible for JS without Google Earth (he may not have even known where the BoM took place, but probably didn’t know as much about BoM geography as Mormon or Moroni).
    As far as "proving", there is a mountain of supportive, even proving evidence, it’s fun and enlightening, but, for me it’s value is primarily in making connections with these very real people who lived and died long ago, and whose descendants are still with us today.

    AS I read the BoM with a map in mind, it comes to life even more than ever, especially as I see that everything fits, impossibly well.

  • Esquire
    May 28, 2010 6:50 a.m.

    Why the need to prove or disprove the Book of Mormon? It is a matter of faith. Read it, pray about it and go forward from there. That's the only valid approach to the book. Proving it will not support real testimonies, and disproving it is as impossible as proving it. It is a spiritual exercise, not an academic one.

  • financenco
    May 28, 2010 6:38 a.m.

    It doesn't take having an advanced degree to figure that they started in our southern continent. Now obviously there had been mirgrations both by land and sea, at different times, mentioned in the BOM. It also tells of earthquakes and destruction of cities, about the time of Christ's death. This continent is large. Over the course of centuries, I find it funny that people want to argue about different topics under one arguement. Man are explorers by nature, and is God granted, he has helped and inspired many discoveries we see in history. Yes, the people of Nephi migrated here, crossing the ocean, as well as a least 2 other groups. It would be nice to have exactness on locations, but that is part of discovery. But also, I do think that, as large as this continent is, that other folks, since, found ways to get here to. I think if you look at it from both sides, in ways you are both right. Migrations came from the Northest, but they also came from the South as well. That doesn't make the doctrines false. God's wisdom, is more then the wisdom of man ever was.

  • Pollyanna
    May 28, 2010 12:43 a.m.

    Very disappointed in the bias of this article. I am not on one side or other and felt obviously rude slant in reporting.

  • Aspiring Theist
    May 27, 2010 10:59 p.m.

    Can a Latter-day Saint take the view that the Book of Mormon is not an historical document and remain in good standing? Is the truthfullness of the religion tied to the Mormon book being historical?

    Also, do LDS members take a literal view of Biblical events such as the Noah and the flood, the scattering of the "tribes", Jonah and the whale. Is there the latitude to view such accounts as being non-literal stories?

  • KC Mormon
    May 27, 2010 10:39 p.m.

    a cou0ple of problems with the Rigdon Spalding theories. First Rigdon as both realy rely on Joseph knowing Rigdon before the publishing of the Book of Mormon, Rigdons wearabouts were well documented at the time his path does not cross Josephs before late 1830. Also even after leaving the LDS Church he continued to deny ever meeting Joseph or seeing the Book of MOrmon before 1830. As for Spaulding it was a good theory before 1884. Then a little problem developed for the theory, Spauldings manuscript was found and compaired to the Book of Mormon. it proved so troublemsome that the theory was changed to Spaulding wrote a second revised manuscript. This also has proven false as one page of the manuscript is writen on the back of a letter dated after the supposed second writing. So Rigdon and Josephs paths did not cross pre 1830 and Spauldings manuscript turned out to not be related to the Book of Mormon.

  • Vanka
    May 27, 2010 6:27 p.m.


    In 1980, BYU statistics professors/apologists conducted a "word print" analysis of the Book of Mormon. They concluded that the BOM authors were many, with unique styles that were all distinct from all proposed 19th-century authors (Spalding, Rigdon, Smith).

    See Wayne A. Larsen, Alvin C. Rencher, and Tim Layton, "Who Wrote the Book of Mormon? An Analysis of Wordprints," BYU Studies 20 (Spring, 1980) pp. 225-251. This study was also reported in the Church News.

    See: Holmes, D. I. (1992). A stylometric analysis of Mormon scripture and related texts. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (A), 155(1): 91-120.

    Jockers, M.L., Witten, D.M., & Criddle, C.S.(2008). Reassessing authorship of the Book of Mormon using delta and nearest shrunken centroid classification. Literary and Linguistic Computing, Vol.23,No.4,p.465-491

    Witnesses report word of "Golden Bible" in several Western Reserve and NY newspapers in 1827. Eliza R. Snow, student of Rigdon as “Campbellite” testified she heard of “Golden Bible” in 1829 through Rigdon. Orson Hyde, also “Rigdonite” reported hearing of the Golden Bible in 1827. Others say 1826 or even 1820 Smith and Rigdon may have met.

  • Sirius
    May 27, 2010 5:08 p.m.

    Why doesn't the prophet end this debate & just ask God where the BOM took place? The early prophets of the church got far more complicated revelations than that.

  • procuradorfiscal
    May 27, 2010 4:56 p.m.

    The truth of the Book of Mormon, the Bible -- even goodly portions of modern college textbooks -- are matters of faith.

    Intellectually, BOM historicity would be characterized as an hypothesis, supported, or not, by evidence, but incapable of proof to a mathematical certainty. No intrinsic or extrinsic fact leads inescapably to either belief or disbelief.

    Honest, intelligent, informed people of good will are found on both sides of the issue, as are uncritical true believers, and venal, partisan enthusiasts.

    Regarding geography, though the Bible has a HUGE advantage over the BOM, since location of some cities is known, there are still tremendous disputes over its historicity and geography [eg., is Ai located at et-Tell, or Kirbet el-Maqatir?]. Why hold the BOM to a higher standard?

    In short, the BOM stands or falls on its own promise -- ask God if it's true. Exercise faith. Listen for the Holy Ghost.

    Previous blather notwithstanding, belief in the BOM is not the hallmark of an ignoramus, any more than is belief in string theory or Keynesian economics.

    It's a matter of faith.

  • hairypatches
    May 27, 2010 4:14 p.m.

    Well lets end the debate!!!


    end of debate....

  • Demisana
    May 27, 2010 3:28 p.m.

    @Iconoclast - I read your comment with interest, particularly the part about people who contributed to the Book of Mormon. A quick google showed that Sidney Rigdon first met the missionaries in October of 1830, after the Book of Mormon was published. How could he have contributed ideas and information post publication? And why should I be persuaded by anything else you said? Just wondering.

  • skeptic
    May 27, 2010 3:27 p.m.

    @Rock, I am confused as to why you are confused. Man takes pride and satisfation in the study of ancient Bible sites that support his believes. And man goes to great pains to learn of all he can of nature (God's wonders and marvelous works). So if one believes, or disbelieves, in th Book of Mormon why would he not take an interest in the discovery of God's truth, or man's folly. God's greatest gift to man is his mind and brain and it seems God wishes for man to use it.

  • LDS Liberal
    May 27, 2010 2:43 p.m.

    I can't discuss LDS doctrine with my fellow Mormons either.

    Besides - I'm indifferent as to who, what, when, where happen in the BoM or the Bible for that matter.

    The answers for me all fall under the category as to "Why".

    I really, Really appreciated --
    "ramper"'s comment @ 5:36 a.m.
    "I believe in the end we will all be surprised."

    I agree!!!

  • Mimi
    May 27, 2010 2:21 p.m.

    I believe the time will come when we are tested on the Book of Mormon. And it WON'T be a geography test.

  • Thinkman
    May 27, 2010 1:00 p.m.


    So you do agree that the Book of Mormon is racist by your statement. The Bible is racist as well. I don't believe the Bible to be any more inspired than the BofM.

    I don't believe in the Flood or the creation. What I do believe from both texts is that they both have some great guiding principles on how to live and treat others. Unfortunately, both also have and teach some horrible examples of how, in God's name, we should treat and look upon others who don't believe as we do.

    That is the whole point of religion. It is one man's view of our relationship to God and who God is and to convince, persuade, manipulate, cajole and force others to believe as you do either through direct or indirect means. The LDS church proclaims it to be the ONE true church of God as do all religions. They ALL claim to speak in the name of God. That to me is what the commandment to "not take the name of God in vain means." That commandment came from a person we call Moses and not necessarily from God.

  • Not_Scared
    May 27, 2010 12:23 p.m.

    "So how do people of faith discuss differences of opinion about ancillary religious topics without getting too worked up? Which takes precedence: scholarly slam dunks or brotherly love? Can people have a rigorous discussion without religious contention?"

    This is why I avoid discussing religion with Mormons. You can't have a discussion.

    I brought up something that came to my mind after reading the idea that the geographic location of the BOM was in the North East.

    I've talked wit many people who have lived there. One topic comes up: the subzero winter that lasts for weeks.

    There are no references to epic cold in the BOM. My guess is that chariots don't do well in four feet of snow.

  • Idaho Coug
    May 27, 2010 12:03 p.m.

    The fact that this is an ongoing debate raises the question for me on the limits and reality of revelation. Joseph Smith used to get and record what he claimed was revelation over lunch. Today the Heavens seem almost closed short of general christian values shared by most all other christian faiths.

    A thorough study of LDS history makes it clear that MUCH has been the product of personal opinion, tradition, culture and political expediency. Current leadership has become much more savvy in that very little is spoken as clear revelation and even less personal opinions or speculations (outside of sound Christian principles) are shared from the pulpit.

    That leaves me to use my own sense of judgement and common sense hopefully combined with direction from the spirit to make spiritual decisions. I could just choose to follow LDS leadership unquestioning as many do but, again, history shows that the vast majority of LDS doctrine, practices and policies were the product of good men simply doing their best at the time. Which is fine and commendable - but not enough for me to base almost all my daily decisions on.

  • Craigo
    May 27, 2010 11:34 a.m.

    "While the BofM has many great stories and also teaches many useful principles to guide our lives, it also teaches racism and that God favors one people over another. I don't believe in such a God. The God I believe in loves all equally. The God I believe in is NOT vindictive. "

    BofM is Not Racist, any more than the Bible is racist.
    God is interested in getting close to ANYONE that shows interest in being close to HIM. And more often times calls after us, hoping that we will show interest.

    A few BofM points

    1. 1 Nephi 17:35, God loves ALL , FAVORS those that keep his commandments.

    2. By the time of Helaman, The darker skinned people were the favored people of the Lord.

    3. When the People of Nephi found Zarahemla, These people were of Jewish descent, and they intermarried.

  • Craigo
    May 27, 2010 11:24 a.m.

    "By your statement do you mean to imply that God is hiding the truth, or or do you believe that we we are just too incompetent to find it, or perhaps the Book of Mormon is not all it claims to be?"

    The BofM was never written to be a history book. The large plates (That contained mostly history) were abridged, and only the most important stuff was saved. (by Mormon and Moroni)
    The bible is in a different club. The bible is a BIBLE or collection of books, many of which WERE written to give history, a history and geography which HAS been maintained.

    Its important to remember that the BofM, agree with it or not, is a spiritual book, not a history book. (Although is does contain some history, its not the primary purpose at all)

    Its primary focus is teach the doctrine of Jesus.

  • Thinkman
    May 27, 2010 11:08 a.m.


    Great questions! Brotherly love does trump scholarly slam dunks and the most important thing about debating a topic is to show respect.

    I used to be a vigorous defender of the historicity of the Book of Mormon (BofM). I followed many debates on FAIR and other apologetic sites. However, the evidence is too overwhelming that the BofM is a book of fiction.

    While the BofM has many great stories and also teaches many useful principles to guide our lives, it also teaches racism and that God favors one people over another. I don't believe in such a God. The God I believe in loves all equally. The God I believe in is NOT vindictive.

    Religion is just one man's opinion about God. That is what the Catholics, Muslims, Mormons, Baptists, Buddhists, etc., have as their foundation for their respective religions - one man's views on God. The BofM is just one man's(or several men/women)opinion of what they deem to be God's view and perspective on how we should live. I don't need another man to tell me what God thinks. God can and does speak to me directly.

  • Iconoclast
    May 27, 2010 10:54 a.m.

    *correction to above*

    Should read: 'Vernal Holley maps"

    Also of interest: 'Jokkers Criddle wordprint study'

  • Iconoclast
    May 27, 2010 10:18 a.m.

    Sorensen's work on BOM geography presented what I thought was a convincing case for the BOM. I became a dedicated FARMS (now the Maxwell Institute) follower and supporter as a result. I remained committed for more than six years.

    After years of careful study I became convinced that BOM geography existed only in the minds of the book's creators and primary source contributors namely: Saulomon Spaulding, Ethan Smith, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, and Oliver Cowdry et al.

    I am convinced that any reasonably objective observer, upon careful study and consideration of all the available facts would reach the same conclusion. The most notable name on this list that would be of interest to Mormons is B. H. Roberts, apostle, church historian and author of 'Book of Mormon Studies'.

    There is a vast, complicated, and fascinating history behind the creation of the BOM and the church itself. And it takes a lot effort to understand all of the relevant issue. It takes more effort that most people care to invest, particularly in they are not inclined to be historical buffs.

    For most people just googling 'Veranl Holley maps' will satisfy their geographical curiosity.


  • Michael De Groote
    May 27, 2010 10:00 a.m.

    LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith said in 1903 that "if there were differences of opinion on the question (of Book of Mormon geography) it would not affect the salvation of the people; and he advised against students considering it of such vital importance as the principles of the Gospel."

    So how do people of faith discuss differences of opinion about ancillary religious topics without getting too worked up? Which takes precedence: scholarly slam dunks or brotherly love? Can people have a rigorous discussion without religious contention?

  • Rock
    May 27, 2010 9:51 a.m.

    I must say, I am really quite confused.!!
    I am not confused at the location of B of M history sites. I am not confused at the truth of or existence of the Book of Mormon. It is a true and powerful book.
    I am confused that there is even a controversy. I am confused at the argument. I am confused as to why anyone is wasting their precious time wondering and searching. Because.....we have learned by reading the book itself that during the time of the Saviors crucifixion their were earthquakes of some significant magnitude that changed the landscape. Mountains appeared here and disappeared there. Narrow necks of land and rivers disappeared and/or changed completely. Almost all of the ancient ruins that we love to speculate about weren't even built until well after Moronis time.
    Why are we searching for an answer in places where the evidence has changed.

  • Mike in Texas
    May 27, 2010 8:07 a.m.

    ramper, you may be right when you say that you believe that in the end we will all be surprised, but that begs the question. Why is it that "in the end we will all be surprised"? By your statement do you mean to imply that God is hiding the truth, or or do you believe that we we are just too incompetent to find it, or perhaps the Book of Mormon is not all it claims to be?

    It has always been remarkable to me that old world archeology lends considerable evidence to the historicity of the biblical text while the same cannot be said for the Book of Mormon. Dig back to the old world holy land of 2000 years ago and you will find evidence of advanced metal working and chariots and and Semitic, Roman, and Christian culture. Recently they even found a foot or ankle bone with an iron nail embeded in it. We can find the Romans, Jews, and Christians in the holy land, but we can't seem to find archeological evidence of Nephite Christian or Semetic culture anywhere in the new world. Why is that? What is the most likely explanation?

  • ratkellar
    May 27, 2010 7:51 a.m.

    FARMS and other self-styled experts do little to edify. As BH Roberts advised, emphasize the moral and spiritual truths of the Book of Mormon -- that's why God preserved it for us. The geographical information is interesting, but one still has to account for a sea east, west, north, and south. Joseph said Lehi landed south of the Isthmus of Darien (Panama), but found Lamanite mounds on Zion's Camp. We can speculate, but that's all. Be careful what spirits you listen to.

  • ramper
    May 27, 2010 5:36 a.m.

    Nothing quite like self-styled experts protecting their nest from other self-styled experts. I believe in the end we will all be surprised.