Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Michael R. Ash: Models for Book of Mormon geography

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  • MrNirom1 Portland, OR
    July 18, 2014 1:29 p.m.

    The Next question is directed to those who favor the Great Lakes Theory:

    1. “Where are the ‘mountains whose height is great’ that Samuel the Lamanite prophesied about in the Land of Promise?” Samuel proclaimed: “and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great” (Helaman 14:23).

  • MrNirom1 Portland, OR
    July 17, 2014 3:15 p.m.

    Using strictly the scriptures, I would like to ask the following questions of those many Theorists who claim their pet theories about the location of the Land of Promise are consistent with the scriptural record.

    This question is directed to all those Mesoamerican Theorists who claim the Land of Promise was located in Mesoamerica:

    “Using your model of the Land of Promise, what makes you think that the beleaguered Nephite Army, having retreated all across the entire Land of Promise from the Land of Zarahemla (Mormon 1:10) clear to the Land Northward before an overwhelming Lamanite army they had seldom been able to stand against in battle, would suddenly decide to stop and fight a final battle when they could have continually retreated northward into Mexico and the area of present day United States?”

  • Beef_Sister Provo, UT
    Oct. 27, 2010 4:40 p.m.

    Idaho Coug,

    Great points! Sometimes I wonder if FAIR and Michael Ash's time, resources and efforts could be put to much better uses. Like, charities, focusing on the Savior or establishing outreach programs. I for one would not want to have to explain to the Savior that I spent the majority of my time and resources on this earth debating where and whether the event in the BoM took place. As everyone knows, we are on this earth for a very very short time. Spend it well and spend it like the Savior would want you to spend it.

  • Idaho Coug Meridian, Idaho
    Oct. 27, 2010 4:17 p.m.

    Just a reminder - when we meet with the Lord, He won't ask us where we thought the BofM took place. He won't even ask us if we thought it actually did take place.

    He will ask us if we have loved and served to the very best of our abilities. I know I haven't. So I better get busy with that rather than trying to figure out the BofM location. (although if you really must know, I firmly believe in the increasingly popular "Twin Falls, Idaho" Theory. Look for firesides providing fascinating new finds in your area soon).

    One thing that I think is very interesting within Mormonism is the idea of revelation. It is almost IMPOSSIBLE to distinguish actual revelation from personal opinion, public speculation, tradition, culture, church administration, and change due to internal or external pressures. Which IMHO makes it even more crucial that we focus our limited time on this earth on love, service and charity.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 27, 2010 12:11 p.m.

    @Juice "Why wouldn't one be entitled to spiritual confirmation on the BoM geography, especially if one is sincere and has studied it to the best of their ability?

    I for one believe in the traditional model myself. This is my conclusion after much studying and prayer."

    But how would you feel if I claimed to have spiritual confirmation that my Bishop should make changes to my ward? I think I would be out of line if I claimed such a thing.

    While each is entitled to their own opinions on subjects, I am deeply skeptical of anybody's opinion that they claim is based on the Spirit on a subject that is way above their stewardship. The geography of the BOM, if it is ever determined by spiritual confirmation, should come from the Church leadership.

    Just my opinion - and no, I don't claim spiritual confirmation on any of these things.

  • sharrona layton, Ut
    Oct. 27, 2010 8:37 a.m.

    Bill in Nebraska: "kept our first ‘estate’”(arche)is a poor translation by the (KJV Jude 6). The angels lost their rule or authority,and became fallen nothing to do with preexistence. JS misunderstood the Greek text.
    “again nothing you have stated fails to deny the LDS Church's stand. “ Wrong, The Bible says that Satan was in the Garden of Eden, He was created by God as good but because of pride(he wanted to be as God)He fell, God kicked him out of heaven. Satan did not pre-exist. Jesus made all things(John 1:1-4)
    “ Michael the Archangel (Adam) “ The Adam —God doctrine of Brigham Young is considered false doctrine in some Mormon circles."
    “Therefore ,just as sin entered the world by one man(Adam) and death through sin, and death came to all men because all sinned.(Romans 5:12) The Mormon God would be a sinner.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Oct. 26, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    To cmtam and Sharrona: Again everything you have stated supports the LDS view. Nothing you have stated doesn't. We were in existance before the Eart was created. We were there when the Plan of Salvation was submitted to us as Stated in Moses of the Pearl of Great Price. We accepted the plan and kept our first estate and if we keep our second estate it will be added upon.

    Again nothing you have stated fails to deny the LDS Church's stand. The problem is that your stance is different and your interpretation different but it is the same stance. Lucifer was the son of the morning, a spiritual brother of ours who rebelled against our Heavenly Father and the Plan of Salvation. In doing so with Michael the Archangle (Adam) we fought against him and in doing so him and 1/3 of the host of Heaven were cast out. He rules this earth through lies, deceivings and other things. Everything that is evil comes from Satan (Lucifer).

    We are here to be tried and tested, to receive our bodies which the Father has and to have the opportunity to return to him (to be exalted).

  • cmtam lake forest, ca
    Oct. 26, 2010 3:01 p.m.

    RE: JM, BoM,Geography and Revelation. "The tribes are currently gathering in the North",Good,Send out an exploration team.
    "You were in Eden the Garden of God..."On the day you were'created"..." you were blameless in your ways on the day you were 'created." Satan and his angels were created,and fell because of pride.

    "For by him all things were created,things in heaven and earth visible and invisible,whether thrones powers or rulers were created by him for him." (Col 1:16)which includes time.
    S/B,(2 Tim 1:9)"Who has saved us and called us to a holy life,not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose or grace this was the grace given to us in Jesus Christ before the beginning of time. He called us before time. Implys God created time.

  • Searching . . . Orem, UT
    Oct. 26, 2010 2:53 p.m.


    You've made the claim of Pacal's Jaredite descent before, but I haven't been able to verify that. From what I can find on the Internet (not great research, but it'll have to do and you can fill in the holes), I find this line:

    K'INICH JANAHB' PAKAL (615 AD) Pacal the Great

    LADY SAK K'UK' (612)

    AH NE OHL MAT (605)

    LADY YOHL IK'NAL (583)

    KAN B'ALAM I (572)

    AHKAL MO' NAHB' II (564)

    K'AN HOY CHITAM I (529)

    AHKAL MO' NAHB' I (501)

    B'UTZ'AH SAK CHIK (487)

    "CASPER" (435)

    K'UK' B'ALAM (431 AD)

    The dates are the year each king (queen) acceded to the throne. These are from Jeeni Criscenzo's website. I can't vouch for the accuracy, but it's similar to other's I've seen and better organized.

    I'm not sure if the lineage extends further, but from what I have seen, earliest name is from 431AD. Not quite a Jaredite date. Which of the names are Jaredites? Can you fill in the blanks?

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    Oct. 26, 2010 12:28 p.m.

    To Joe Blow: There are a variety of definitons of faith in the dictionary, with divergences and clarifications from each religion. While you may disagree with the LDS definition, you ought to at least acknowledge that we believe in the definition given by Bill in Nebraska because it is the Book of Mormon definition.

    Using this definition means that a number of non-spiritual things may operate on faith. An LDS astronaut once pointed out that the scientific belief in neutrinos constitutes faith--a concept that most Latter-day Saints would accept.

    That is why we often say that faith must be centered in Christ to be truly effective for salvation. It is possible to have faith in all sorts of things (the dictionary supports this definition); faith in Christ leads to salvation.

  • JM Lehi, UT
    Oct. 26, 2010 11:50 a.m.

    Looking forward to Mike’s discussions.

    Geography and dna aren’t my things, so I comment often in learning.

    I’m already 100% satisfied of the detailed, miraculous, MiddleEastern/Mayan/IA religious and cultural connection.

    I appreciate diversity in scientific theory.

    For me Mesoamerica fits impossibly well.

    Evidence indicates Nephite culture was destroyed, intentionally.

    I see integrated Lamanite culture everywhere.

    Pacal, of Palenque, includes Jaredite kings in his genealogy, this explains much (interestingly, before others were known Joseph once speculated Palenque might be Zarahemla).

    One of my questions was Alma50:34, searched Allen&co Paredon(wall Morianton would skirt) on GoogleEarth and there’s a “narrow pass” there, sea east/west...could it be? : ) Anyone?

    Mormon knew BoM geography.

    Opinions are ok, but JFS says: “My words, and...ANY other...high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear...the four standard works...(are)measuring yardsticks...”

    (Antis please include BY clarification of “scripture” comment.)

    @charles, what’s “doctrine”? Line upon line

    @sharonna, tribes are currently gathering from north, also BoM related Armenia, Mongolia, Siberia etc.

    @Otis, Moroni taught geography? Check FAIR Zelph etc &spreading north textually ok.

  • Juice SLC, UT
    Oct. 26, 2010 8:52 a.m.

    Utes Fan wrote:
    "There is a movement going around that claims that the hemispheric model of geography is correct and based on spiritual confirmations."

    Why wouldn't one be entitled to spiritual confirmation on the BoM geography, especially if one is sincere and has studied it to the best of their ability?

    I for one believe in the traditional model myself. This is my conclusion after much studying and prayer.

  • JoeBlow Miami Area, Fl
    Oct. 26, 2010 6:30 a.m.

    "Faith is the belief in something that is not seen but is TRUE."

    No Bill,

    I agree with the first part "Faith is the belief in something that is not seen"

    It's the "but is TRUE" part that is incorrect.

    Just because you have faith in something does not make it TRUE.

    How about this

    Faith is the belief in something that has not been proven to be true.

    Most LDS use the word KNOW in place of FAITH.

    No one can question what you have FAITH in. But the religious have KNOWN lots of completely false things.

    This may or may not be one of those things.

  • Bill in Nebraska Maryville, MO
    Oct. 25, 2010 7:47 p.m.

    What Mr. Ash has stated is basic theories but nothing has been proven one way or the other. Again you will find nothing that absolutely proves the Book of Mormon. Those who say it is doctrine changed are miffed because it never was doctrine. Theories are just that theories. Evolution is a theory which has some proof but still things that are left out and are not proven.

    The Book of Mormon must be taken completely and entirely on faith. Yes, Doctor, I do believe in Bigfoot even though it too is a theory. Evidence is there that it may be true but nothing concrete. The same can be said of the Book of Mormon and some of its proofs. Faith is the belief in something that is not seen but is TRUE.

    I don't really care where Lehi and his family landed, what matters is the teachings that come from the Book of Mormon. The same about the Bible. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through the power and inspiration from a kind and just Heavenly Father. Sincere prayer, a broken heart and a contrite spirit is necessary for one to obtain the truth of this book.

  • Arlin Nusbaum Modesto, CA
    Oct. 25, 2010 5:31 p.m.

    @Razzle2 Regarding cement, there are several factors that have been ignored by Mesotheorists:

    1.Cement was exclusively used in the Jaredite Land Northward. Models with cement structures in the Land Southward won't work, i.e. not Mesoamerica.

    2.All cement structures were demolished at the coming of Christ and replaced with wooden ones:


    "They did suffer whatsoever tree should spring up upon the face of the land that it should grow up that in time they might have timber to build their HOUSES, yea, their CITIES, and their TEMPLES, and their SYNAGOGUES, and their SANCTUARIES, and ALL MANNER OF THEIR BUILDINGS. (Helaman 3:9)

    3. The calamities were NOT caused by volcanic activity; such causes were never known before:


    Guatemala has 33 volcanoes.

    Not to mention the void of references to hurricanes, flash floods, mud slides, rains, etc. demolishing fortifications and cities.

  • sharrona layton, Ut
    Oct. 25, 2010 5:04 p.m.

    Mormon Geography,Revelation and the BoM. In D&C 110 JS said that the keys of gathering of Israel from the four parts of earth and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.
    In 1867 Orson Pratt said "That the ten tribes will come from the polar regions,is placed beyond all controversy by new revelation. Millennial star. v. 29. They need a team of experts to explore the North Pole.

  • Jeff Temple City, CA
    Oct. 25, 2010 4:20 p.m.

    The fact that Joseph Smith did not apparently know the exact location of the main events of the Book of Mormon lends credence to the belief that the book is true and that Joseph--an uneducated, semi-literate (though intelligent) farmboy--translated the book using powers from God that exceeded his own ability.

    It is especially telling that Joseph's views evolved over time. I would expect translators to adpat their views over time.

  • Doctor Tucson, AZ
    Oct. 25, 2010 2:57 p.m.

    Of course Joseph could have said the Central American ruins were Nephite because it fit his story, except for the North/South thing. Oops.

  • Razzle2 Bluffdale, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 2:23 p.m.

    The most numerous and greatest cities of cement were built during the time all Nephites lived in peace for 200 years after Christ. Yet, we have little scripture about this time. So, the possibility for science to find exact BoM cities before Christ mentioned in the scriptures is not likely.

  • Arlin Nusbaum Modesto, CA
    Oct. 25, 2010 1:40 p.m.

    We'll see if Ash will consider part of the data fulfilled land prophecies.

    So far, Mesotheorists are reluctanct to factor that data or to use it to measure models with.

    With nearly two hundred years of hindsight, Book of Mormon lands can be located, they just don't match preconceived notions of what evidences should remain.

    Hugh Nibley said:

    "In view of the nature of their civilization one should not be puzzled if the Nephites had left us no ruins at all. People underestimate the capacity of things to disappear, and do not realize that the ancients almost never built of stone. Many a great civilization which has left a notable mark in history and literature has left behind not a single recognizable trace of itself. We must stop looking for the wrong things." (An Approach to the Book of Mormon, pg. 431)

    Nevertheless, a large number of artifacts have been found in Western New York where the true lands of the Book of Mormon are.

  • Juice SLC, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 12:50 p.m.

    There are two theories about BoM geography that Michael Ash did not discuss, but which are both gaining some traction. The Malay Penninsula Theory and the African Theory. Just google either one to learn more about the evidence for these interesting theories.

  • Utes Fan Salt Lake City, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 11:01 a.m.

    Ash says: "This means that the LDS Church does not support one theory over another and that no prophet – including Joseph Smith – has claimed that God has revealed the location for Book of Mormon events. We should be wary of any person or group who tries to foist a geography on members by stating or implying that their theories are based on revelation and that those who disagree with their views are out of step with the words of the prophets."

    I agree completely. There is a movement going around that claims that the hemispheric model of geography is correct and based on spiritual confirmations. I do not have the education and background to decide if that theory is correct. However, because of what Ash said, I am skeptical of it. And Ash is correct for bringing it up.

  • old_churchman Ogden, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 10:13 a.m.

    Joe Blow, the collection of revelations are the "scriptures." Also Bro. Ash discussed the way to recognize revelation in a previous issue (I think each article has a link to the archives).

  • Otis Spurlock Ogden, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 10:12 a.m.

    Michael Ash wrote:

    "When we move from revelation to theory, it should become obvious that the best and strongest models (or paradigms) are those which utilize the tools of science and scholarship – data and analysis.

    Strong models are those which 1) are supported by the strongest evidences, 2) do the best job accounting for all the data and 3) have the fewest anomalies."

    According to the above criteria, we can all conclude that the BoM is not historic.

  • Otis Spurlock Ogden, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 8:05 a.m.

    At the very least, Joseph Smith believed the Lamanites/Nephites were also in North America (in addition to Central America). Just read Joseph's statments of Nephite Towers in Missouri, or his Zelph revelation. It leaves no doubt that he believed, and taught others that the BoM took place in North America also.

    Nobody knew the BoM civilations, their customs, their manner of speach, their buildings and geography better than Joseph Smith. Afterall, Joseph was taught these things by Angel Moroni himself.

  • JM Lehi, UT
    Oct. 25, 2010 7:55 a.m.

    I liked how he explained that JS changed opinions on geography and how this indicates that he was telling the truth. Some have spent lifetimes fabricating error and questions, only to have criticisms fall flat. Then they theorize that JS must have done some miraculous research, traveling hundreds of miles to libraries with bone missing from his leg (or moving libraries to within 50 miles, this from leading anti-pages), traveling to remote towns named Alma (not really named until after BoM translated), finding Nahom and Bountiful, Red Sea river and valley, knowing steel existed then (while critics then and even now say it didn’t), and glass in Jared’s day (same), and horses, etc (big list).
    All this time researching, by JS and accomplices, and yet he didn’t even know Jerusalem had a wall, or that Panama obviously wasn’t North/South, or etc. He included detailed geography, with “up,” “down,” etc, and never had a clue about what he was saying. Then we find ups and downs, fitting Sidons (name “Sidon” also a direct hit), pass, strip, and etc.
    Faith is still required, but maybe only because some can logic away the warm sun.

    @JB StandardWorks

  • JoeBlow Miami Area, Fl
    Oct. 25, 2010 6:41 a.m.

    "but he never claimed that his personal views on the matter were based on divine revelation. "

    Serious questions

    Is there a collection of "revelation" anywhere?

    Are there 2? 5? 200?

    Is there a collection that is written down that can be viewed?

    When was the last revelation?

    How do the faithful know what is revelation and what is opinion?

    I believe that, for the most part, LDS prophets and Quorum leaders are very accomplished and intelligent men.

    If not specifically revelation, are their words just advice from smart people that LDS are allowed to follow or not?

    Thanks in advance