Defending the Faith: John Sorenson's 'Mormon's Codex' examines Book of Mormon geography

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  • NeilT Clearfield, UT
    Nov. 1, 2014 8:28 a.m.

    Just exactly where is this narrow neck of land the Book of Mormon refers to? Just curious. There are a lot of references to places in the the Book of Mormon that are so vague that one can only make an educated guess.

  • Hank Jr Draper, UT
    Oct. 27, 2014 6:21 p.m.

    Sounds interesting. I'll have to check it out.

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Oct. 26, 2014 6:59 a.m.

    Can I assume, then, that the evidence presented in this book will inform the world, and become the accepted fact of anthropologists, archaeologists, grade school students and geographers everywhere? It hasn't yet, and there doesn't seem to be any tectonic shift in thought afoot. I'm waiting; we're all curious to see if the story fits the facts or if facts can be made to fit the story.

  • NightOwlAmerica SALEM, OR
    Oct. 24, 2014 2:21 p.m.

    The Wraith
    Kaysville, UT said:

    "Yes Verdad I've read his book. I found his conclusions, methods, and evidence to be laughable. Pretty harsh but there you go.

    Here's my challenge. If you can meet this challenge I'll give Sorenson a deeper look. Find me one, just one, accredited professional non-Mormon archaeologist, historian, or anthropologist, studying Amerindian culture or geography that agrees with Dr. Sorenson. Just one person in these fields of study who has produced a work supporting a single Book of Mormon claim even. Just one."

    Good for you! I am glad you read it. Makes no difference what evidence you are handed, you still wont believe it. That is apparent. Move along dude. The only knowledge you care to share is ruffling feathers here.

  • eastcoastcoug Danbury, CT
    Oct. 21, 2014 11:19 a.m.

    ALL scholars and researchers would agree with the archeological findings cited in Sorensen's book. They come from and are corroborated with non LDS sources for the most part. What they would disagree with are his conclusions of what they mean. So the real question for LDS and non LDS alike is "What do you make of these 400 citations?" We can't say with certainty that the rapid drop in population in the area cited by Sorensen as Cumorah IS necessarily the final battle between the Nephites and Lamanites. It does not and cannot prove that these 2 societies existed.

    But, we also can't say that there is absolutely no archeological finding that supports the idea that 2 societies battled and that there was a large scale drop in population. What Sorensen is trying to say with this book is that there are 400 findings that match descriptions of society, biology, religion, warfare, etc. found in the Book of Mormon. That's a substantial amount, regardless of whether you agree with his conclusions.

    You can take the above however you want. But let's stop saying that these things are "Proofs" and likewise that "There is no physical evidence".

  • JimmyJackJohnJones Jonestown, TX
    Oct. 15, 2014 4:49 p.m.

    Hey Fred, no self respecting archaeologist would bother trying to disprove this nonsense. You can't disprove something that can't BE proved. No right thinking scholar would waste a day of their life entertaining such folly.

  • JimmyJackJohnJones Jonestown, TX
    Oct. 15, 2014 4:44 p.m.

    You can't place a work of fiction into a physical landscape. If you could someone would have located Middle Earth. Oh wait, I have, let me sell you the book about it. Geez, seriously?

  • 1Reader Sunnyvale, CA
    Oct. 5, 2014 10:35 p.m.

    Very well said, Dan.

  • daver Provo, 00
    Sept. 30, 2014 11:01 a.m.

    Dr. Peterson, you are one of my all-time fave apologists. I will definitely take your recommendation to heart and have enjoyed any treatise of the meso-American paradigm I have read in the past. My problem with any of them, however, is they only offer tangential and circumstantial material from quasi- "Lamanite-only" or "fled-Nephite-at-best" presence and never anything that I can put in my personal tally of "direct-Nephite-plausibility."

    However, with a more careful reading of the Book, one sees that the primary civilization of record built with wood and lived in the "Land of Promise," which to my knowledge, hasn't ever changed hemispheres (from north to south or vice-versa). The greatest and only significant collection of direct plausible relics of a Christian/Hebrew belief system were found in copious quantities throughout the upper mid-western and NE US.

  • Keith Of Utah Roy, UT
    Sept. 29, 2014 11:42 a.m.

    For "THe Wraith", Oh, yeah, it was a well known fact that Manchester and Palmyra in 1823 had two of the best libraries in the United States for the time! You just walked right in the Marble Buildings and looked at the plethera of books on the hundreds of thousands of library shelves of anciant american inhabitants of the time. He had all kinds of resource material to write his book of mormon with. It was an amazing work he slapped together with the help of his mother and sisters and brothers while his daddy did all the farm work by himself to keep the family on easy street and have money to bribe those early believers into uprooting their families and moving to kirtland ohio! Heck, the Smiths financed the whole thing with rich farm buddy and most of the mormon investments today come from those early roots of that work! Get real!!!

  • Mikhail ALPINE, UT
    Sept. 24, 2014 10:49 a.m.

    I am a Book of Mormon believer, but do not buy in to the limited Meso-American model simply because I cannot reconcile the repeated identification of the lands of the Book of Mormon to be occurring upon a "land which is choice above all other lands." The descriptors of the prophecies of the peoples of the land, together with the other promised land descriptions, tell us of the land which we know as the United States of America. As L. Tom Perry stated: “The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon—a place where divine guidance directed inspired men to create the conditions necessary for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ." We know where the plates were found. We know where the New Jerusalem is to be established. I believe that Dr. Sorenson is stretching his science to fit his paradigm. The intellectuals need to evaluate their paradigm and exam the evidences left by the Adena and Hopewell of North America. That "Codex" is likely to be more compelling.

  • AZKID Mapleton, UT
    Sept. 22, 2014 11:59 p.m.

    I personally find at least as much evidence pointing to the North American model where the Nephites were the Hopewell culture instead of the Mezzo-American culture.

    Some liberties need to be taken with the geography to make the North American model fit (i.e. narrow neck is between great lakes and Sidon flows south), but no more than those needed by the Mezzo-American model (i.e. "swords" = obsidian-edged clubs and North = West).

  • antodav TAMPA, FL
    June 19, 2014 4:09 p.m.

    I’ve started An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon but haven’t gotten very far in it. It is a very scholarly and academic read, which wouldn’t normally be a problem for me, except that I haven’t got that much time to read in the first place (and when I do, I really ought to be studying actual scriptures, not apologetic works). Mormon’s Codex seems like it might be a little bit easier to digest while still providing basically the same information. I will definitely look into getting a copy of it at some point.

  • Mormoncowboy Provo, Ut
    June 9, 2014 11:20 p.m.

    Let's be clear - are there indirect evidences that can be used to support the literal historicity of the Book of Mormon? Yes. Does the evidence itself support the Book of Mormon? Probably not. What fails to get lost in all these models about Book of Mormon settings, is the possibility of no setting at all. Interestingly, that's the one possibility excluded from many of the open minded Mormon scholars, or even commenter's on this article, who complain that the rest of the world won't take their scholarship seriously. The day you are willing to entertain the possibility that the Book of Mormon isn't anything more than 19th century fiction, is the day I will waste time vetting 400 points of circumstantial evidence.

  • BlueHusky Mission Viejo, CA
    June 9, 2014 12:01 p.m.

    I've read Sorenson's earlier books. I've also read the statistical wordprint articles. I'm very familiar with the methods used: Multiple ANOVA, Canonical Analysis, etc. These are standard methods for testing hypothesis and looking for causal relationships.

    The original paper, appearing in Authorship of the Book of Mormon, was stunning to me. I was a skeptic. The sampling and analytic methods were careful. The test was simple: Null hypothesis was that the BOM was written by a single author. The frequencies of non-context words is used to establish authorship. Techniques applied to studies of Shakespeares' writing for example. The ANOVA test produced a p value 0.000000001. Statistical significance is defined as P < 0.01. In English, this indicates that the probability that the BOM had a single author was one in a billion. The Canonical analysis indicated a clear time-line ordinating the books along a timeline from Nephi to Mormon.

    This study was repeated at Cal, by a group of statisticians, only one of whom was LDS. Same results.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    June 9, 2014 10:02 a.m.

    I am reminded of a line from Raiders of the Lost Ark: "They're digging in the wrong place!"

    Prior to 1700, hundreds of Spanish ships had already taken most of what was not nailed down, including the chronicles of the conquistadores - all of which found their way to Portugal, Spain and Rome.

    Rather than asking the LDS Church to open their archives, I'm sure we could find more evidence of the BoM's veracity by examining all of the Catholic Churches artifacts removed from Mesoamerica....

    A good take on this is David G. Calderwood's 'Voices from the Dust'.

  • J-TX Allen, TX
    June 9, 2014 9:39 a.m.

    Who in Joseph Smith's time and station knew, believed or postulated that there were not one, but two completely separate and distinct longstanding cultures in ancient Mesoamerica - one who died out just before the other came to prominence?

    If only for this one evidence I laugh at the Book of Mormon's detractors.

  • JackM Natchitoches, LA
    June 9, 2014 9:18 a.m.

    @Fred Vader
    It's easy to provide a peer reviewed professional publication that provides verifiable evidence which disproves Sorenson's Book of Mormon location claim.
    David L. Lentz's paper entitled "Maya Diets of the Rich and Poor: Paleoethnobotanical Evidence from Copan" shows there was no wheat pollen in the area Sorenson claims. Since then hundreds of additional core samples have been drilled throughout Central America and the result is the wheat pollen. If wheat were grown, as is claimed in the Book of Mormon, there would be pollen.

    See David J. Rue's 1987 paper in Nature titled "Early Agriculture and Early Postclassic Maya Occupation in Western Honduras."

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 9, 2014 7:44 a.m.

    RE: Cinci Man. Robert Starling at the Book of Mormon Archeological Forum, “The Smithsonian has backed off their statements from 1996."
    ” The Smithsonian March 8, 2012,“s still correct – no revisions.”
    As much as Mormons would like to believe that the Smithsonian Institution “backed off” its previous findings and Statement Regarding the Book of Mormon, that just isn’t the case. The changes to the Smithsonian’s statement did not seek to “bring it up-to-date scientifically,” for the Institution continued to “stand by” its former statement–a statement that detailed many scientific problems with the Book of Mormon.

    RE: The Right Hand of God in the Bible Hebrew Idiom." That being a figure of speech much like, "he's my right hand man, a metaphor for the omnipotence of God. The Greek word Dexios used about 52 times in the N.T. as a relationship, or orientation, and is translated idiomatically into "right hand.”

  • Sore loser tampa, fl
    June 8, 2014 10:13 a.m.

    To the Book of Mormon doubters, how can you pass judgement when all the info is not in yet. They find new findings every day and have not stopped digging yet for clues. The BOM isn't a book of ancient technology although it does mention unsubstianted technologies. If your Dad whom you trust told you something that seemed contrary to your understanding, wouldn't you give him the benefit of the doubt and wait for more info? Why rush to judgement.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    June 7, 2014 11:32 p.m.

    Thank you Sharrona. You always prove my points. There are literally thousands of detractors who cannot speak to any specific evidence presented. They just make blanket statements the they've "never seen" anything convincing. I invite you and other naysayers who offered nothing substantial to address what I wrote when challenged to provide one piece of evidence that has wide support in the international intellectual community. You can quote every person you can find who has not seen anything, but please offer specific response that denies the evidence I wrote about. Still your turn. This was my last post, per DSN rules. I could write dozens more and you will still refuse to see.

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 7, 2014 3:06 p.m.

    RE: Cinci Man. "In 1993 Michael D. Coe, professor of anthropology at Yale University, summarized the situation by saying: 'I have seen no archaeological evidence before or since that [1973] date which would convince me that it [the Book of Mormon] is anything but a fanciful creation by an unusually gifted individual living in upstate New York in the early nineteenth century."

    Also, numerous, highly qualified and recognized experts in the relevant fields have expressed their rejection of the BoM as a valid and truthful history, based on their understanding of the subjects of Native American history, language, mythology and etc. Responding to a widely distributed inquiry by James Fogal, requesting insights of relevant scholars on the matter of the veracity of the BoM,many responded.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 6, 2014 6:45 p.m.


    Your comment is funny because you did exactly the same thing that you claim I did. The only difference is that you didn't provide any argument. You only said Joseph Smith never read those things... You don't provide logical reasons, proof, references - nothing. I could equally say that your only argument is that you "believe and want so much to believe and that is your proof." By the way, I will be just fine in my old age, along with the %99 of the world that doesn't believe in Mormonism. Yep, all will be well.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    June 6, 2014 12:34 p.m.

    Since many LDS believe in the limited geography theory of the BOM, may they conclude that the bronze skins of American Indian populations are do to their Asian heritage (mostly) and not the Lamanite curse of a black skin. This would be good because we can finally dump completely the idea that skin tone denotes worthiness.

  • gmlewis Houston, TX
    June 6, 2014 11:37 a.m.

    While the Codex focuses on the Mesoamerican area for Nephite and Lamanite civilizations, little is said about the likelihood of numerous Lamanite migrations down into South America. These civilizations would have been separated geographically and culturally from the Lamanite civilization up north.

    As a missionary in Brazil in 1972, I once had the opportunity to teach the daughter of an Amazonian tribal chief. She read The Book of Mormon in a week, and confirmed that this sacred history closely matched the tribal legends she was told as a child. Obviously, she was no learned archeologist, but she had a worthwhile insight into the culture of her people. She was baptized within a week after completing her reading in The Book of Mormon.

  • CarnageAsada Boise, ID
    June 6, 2014 10:51 a.m.

    And finally...
    "Of almost equal strength is the fact that Kaminaljuyu, the large archaeological site at Guatemala City and the most plausible site for the city of Nephi, exhibits multiple signs of “sudden civilization” around fifth or sixth centuries BC in agreement with the picture of early Nephite culture growth according to the small plates record. Of related significance, as I see it, is the picture sketched in chapter 20 of Mormon’s Codex of what I called “a virtual avalanche” of features of Near Eastern religion and ideology that appears in BC times in Mesoamerica."

  • CarnageAsada Boise, ID
    June 6, 2014 10:43 a.m.

    From the same interview, I thought these two items were very interesting and a good summation of what Sorenson would consider "the best evidence":

    "What is the most significant evidence for the Book of Mormon?
    Mormon’s Codex contains information on up to 400 ways in which the Book of Mormon appears to fit within the ancient cultural context of Mesoamerica. I am most impressed with the archaeological finding that the central depression of Chiapas, which most plausibly constitutes the heart of the Nephite land of Zarahemla, was largely depopulated around AD 350 as a result of a military campaign that stemmed from highland Guatemala, the most plausible seat of Lamanite power. This is such a sweeping event, and the timing is so strikingly correlated, that I am persuaded that these facts match significantly with what is reported by Mormon in chapter two of his personal account. "

  • CarnageAsada Boise, ID
    June 6, 2014 10:09 a.m.

    Hi Friends, there has been some discussion about other non-Mormon scholars either verifying or contradicting Sorenson’s work. Here is part of an insightful interview he gave recently about “Mormon’s Codex” and its effect on other scholars.

    I think it is worthwhile for people on both sides of the discussion to review this interview in three parts. It is on the Maxwell Institute site, under Ask the Scholar.

    “How have non-LDS scholars reacted to your work? How do you feel about it? I wouldn’t know. I suspect all but a few ignore what I write. If they are steadfastly professional in their reading, it would be easy to be completely unaware of my work. I suspect I would be classed by most such scholars with that fairly large class of marginal writers who can safely be allotted no attention. There may, however, be a few people “in the closet” who have paid some attention to my and other scholarly Mormon work, but they may feel that to draw attention to it by commenting on it, even negatively, would serve no useful purpose, in their calculus.”

  • sharrona layton, UT
    June 6, 2014 8:07 a.m.

    RE: Chessermesser, Who are the "other sheep” John 10:16. “..the Gentiles should be ‘fellowheirs’ and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel".Eph 3:6.

    Reports of findings of ancient Egyptian, Hebrew and other Old World writings in the New World in pre-Columbian contexts have frequently appeared...None of these claims has stood up to examination by reputable scholars." “It can be stated definitely that there is no connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the Book of Mormon. There is no correspondence whatever between archeological sites and cultures as revealed by scientific investigations and as recorded in the Book of Mormon, hence the book cannot be regarded as having any historical value from the standpoint of the aboriginal peoples of the New World." F.H.H. Roberts, Jr, Smithsonian Institution.

    “The Smithsonian Institution has never used the Book of Mormon in any way as a scientific guide.” Smithsonian archeologists see no direct connection between the archeology of the New World and the subject matter of the book." ("Statement Regarding The Book of Mormon," Smithsonian Institution, Spring 1986)

  • Chessermesser West Valley City, UT
    June 6, 2014 7:40 a.m.

    It is so obvious when reading the Book of Mormon that it is written by different people. Also, the incredibly complicated chiasmuses, the peotry of the many verses, and the eloquence of the doctrine taught are beyond one man's creation.

    Any self respecting scientist, investigating the Book of Mormon, should come to the same conclusion. The catch is - many scientists have their preconceived notions, which don't fit other theories and therefore they are not truly open to investigate alternatives.

    The reality of most events from long ago - we don't have conclusive records and therefore must theorize. Theories come and theories go - but somewhere there is truth. The evidences of the Book of Mormon are so numerous and irrefutable that a person has to be somewhat closeminded to ignore them all.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    June 6, 2014 6:46 a.m.

    Dear Brahmabull:

    Your comment is typical of those who have no evidence and no good counter arguments. You've decided that because you don't want to believe it, that's proof. Wow! That's a really persuasive argument. I hope it sustains you in your old age.

  • Mikhail ALPINE, UT
    June 6, 2014 6:41 a.m.

    While I appreciate the research and theories of Book of Mormon Mesoamerican geography, I find that the Book of Mormon describes a land which does not describe that particular land advocated by Brother Sorenson. I believe that there are other peoples who are involved in that area and that, perhaps, the people described in the Book of Mormon may have had some involvement with those people, they weren't central to Mesoamerica. As Elder Perry recently stated, the United States of America is the land spoken of in the Book of Mormon. Perhaps we might have a greater understanding of Book of Mormon geography and of known facts as applied to the writings contained in the Book of Mormon. Hugh Nibley once stated that the Adena and Hopewell cultures found within the United States would better provide us with those understandings than the stone monuments of central and south America. There is more out there than we can possibly conceive. The Book of Mormon is as Joseph Smith represented it.

  • Dennis Harwich, MA
    June 6, 2014 5:17 a.m.

    Defenders of the faith are a hard nosed bunch around here.
    Anything published to give credence to the stories, myths and writings of the Church are held onto for dear life.
    Everything detractors can mention is scoffed at, excused off, and ignored with pat answers as to why we don't "know" certain things.
    The facts say the there were people that lived in the Americas for centuries. Inca, Myan, etc. etc. None of the facts point out the Lehi, Nephi and the family started it all or even contributed. It's pretty simple. It's either 100% faith supported theory or fiction. There is really not an argument.

  • skeptic Phoenix, AZ
    June 5, 2014 10:29 p.m.

    If the church sincerely wished for their members and the population at large to know the truth concerning the BOM they would open all the church records and history and contract qualified researchers, both Mormon and non-Mormon, to study and document the truth of the matter. The church has more than enough money for the project, so why don't they do it. It is not all the difficult to figure out why, but of course many will find excuse for why not, others just don't wish to know and others just don't like the light of day.

  • AerilusMaximus Berryville, VA
    June 5, 2014 10:28 p.m.

    "that there are bucketloads of parallels between virtually *all* human cultures."

    Yes, one that I find interesting is the parallel between the Israelites being placed where they were pretty close to the dead sea.

    And the pioneers being lead to an area near another large body of salt water.

    I know I know you could say well Salty Water covers practically the whole earth. I just find it interesting that they are both near two salt water lakes.

    I heard a theory something like the dead sea was once soddom and gomorrah as well. It makes me speculate as to what the great salt lake might have been?

    I know there is no evidence to support this idea of mine and I don't worry I am not taking it very seriously.

    I just wonder if like the great salt lake might have been some place like Jacobugath.

  • Brahmabull sandy, ut
    June 5, 2014 9:25 p.m.


    You claim Joseph never had access to all of those readings? And how do you know this? We may not know if he did or not, but you can't prove or even be sure that he didn't. That is what invalidates your statement. What we do know is that none of the Joseph Smith story makes sense. From the part where the golden plates somehow were buried in New York (cumorah) from the way the witnesses had to pray to see the plates (even though Joseph already had them in his possession, supposedly) to the plates being taken up to heaven. It doesn't add up. That is the proof.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 5, 2014 3:40 p.m.

    Well, ok: I'm not sure how anybody who has read Professor Sorenson's book can say that its contents "contradict much of modern archaeology," since modern archaeology is, overwhelmingly, the source Professor Sorenson has drawn on for the contents of his book.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    June 5, 2014 3:12 p.m.

    I'll offer one example of the evidence of the Book of Mormon that is agreed upon by many non-Mormon scholars. The translation of jaw-bone or jaw to Lehi. Feel free to Google "Jawbone translates to Lehi". One website quotes many bibles, the verse Judges 15:19. Obviously the many authors of these bibles agree to this translation. Dr. Sorenson and many others discuss artifacts attesting to a very significant Mayan who is continually represented in artifacts by a jawbone. The Tree of Life Stone (Stela 5) and Monument 21 are just two such artifacts. And Monument 21 shows seven families of Jawbone (Lehi). The Book of Mormon refer to the seven families in more than one place, as does the D&C. I invite the few who have challenged just one of Dr. Sorenson's claims to be true to show credible sources that Lehi and jawbone are not synonymous and that there are no jawbones on the Tree of Life Stone (Stella 5) and Monument 21. It's your turn.

  • Well.ok Lehi, UT
    June 5, 2014 3:00 p.m.

    The problem with Sorenson's theories is that they not only contradict much of modern archeology, but also many of the brethren's teachings. From the beginning of the church it has been repeatedly taught that the only inhabitants of the Americas were those peoples described in the BoM and that much of it took place in the modern day U.S. Now we learn from Sorensen that the Nephites and Lamanites were just a small subset of a much larger indigenous population around the area of Mexico. We also learn that there are two Hill Cumorah's and that the one described in the BoM is somewhere in modern day Mexico instead of upstate New York. I could go on, but you get the picure.

    Unfortunately many members of the church have a deep distrust of science, but will they believe Sorensen over the teachings of past prophets?

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    June 5, 2014 2:52 p.m.


    Thanks for the book recommendations. I must admit I'm a confirmed skeptic on the historicity of the Book of Mormon but I'm always open to reconsidering my views on things.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 5, 2014 2:43 p.m.

    I'm happy to have people read Professor Sorenson's book and judge for themselves whether it's the obviously flimsy tissue that a couple of the critics here claim it to be. I think their dismissals unjust with regard to both "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon" and its successor, "Mormon's Codex." I found the two books quite impressive.

  • Michigander Westland, MI
    June 5, 2014 1:50 p.m.

    If or when some or all of the Book of Mormon archaeological artifacts are discovered and uncovered by the American Indian, then the geography or map of the all the lands of the Book of Mormon will be complete and perfect for all time.

    But vastly more important is that scripturally prophetic FACT of the coming forth, out of this current land of the 48 states of the United States of America, of the Choice Seer, the future full-blooded American Indian Moses, who will restore the American Indian back to the ownership and governorship of all the land of North, Central, and South America.

  • coltakashi Richland, WA
    June 5, 2014 1:43 p.m.

    The area that Professor Sorenson has shown best correlates with the size and arrangement of Book of Mormon geography and topography for the years 600 BC to 400 AD does not have a modern archeological theory for the area proposing the existence of a culture incompatible with the one described in the Book of Mormon. There is archeology about the Mayans, but they were in a different area and a largely later time period. The archeology about the Inca and their predecessor Andean civilizations has no intersection with the proposed Book of Mormon region. The Aztec and their contemporaries were a thousand years removed from Nephite culture.
    In the recent book 1491, about the Americas before Columbus, it describes a lost civilization that had cities in what is now the wilderness of the Amazon, only recently discovered with modern scientific techniques like ground penetrating radar. 90% of Amerinds were killed by smallpox and other diseases after 1492, and our knowledge of the prior cultures is extremely limited.

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    June 5, 2014 1:30 p.m.

    The problem with drawing parallels between ancient American culture, the Book of Mormon, and ancient Near Eastern culture, is that there are bucketloads of parallels between virtually *all* human cultures.

    We are more alike than different. Should we be surprised if our cultural practices so often overlap?

    A fun example: In English, the word "pine" refers to a tree -- but also to a feeling of painful yearning. In Japanese, the word "matsu" has exactly the same two meanings. Something about a pine tree, evidently, gave people in two distinct, separated cultures the same sense of painful longing -- with no connection at all between the two linguistic developments. What are the odds? No longer or shorter than the odds of any of Sorensen's parallels.

    I read Sorensen's "An Ancient American Setting" years ago. I was impressed with his diligence, but not his logic, for the reason expressed above. Unless parallels between two cultures are very nearly exact -- and often not even then -- they're not evidence of anything other than that both cultures are the creation of human beings.

  • Oxford Pizza Reading, PA
    June 5, 2014 1:19 p.m.

    Uh Vader - to answer your challenge that would be: every single book ever written in the past 100 years about ancient americans.

  • Weber State Graduate Clearfield, UT
    June 5, 2014 1:12 p.m.

    Apologists work overtime to create assumed associations in an effort to advance an allusion of probability.

    Arguing for an actual existence of a BoM culture without any mainstream archeological evidence reminds me of something I read today about a Disney tour company taking fans to Norway to visit the Geirangerfjord fjord. This landscape inspired the fantasy kingdom of Arendelle in the film "Frozen."

    Although there is also no archeological evidence for the kingdom of Arendelle, one can find amazing parallels which allow for an easy construction of an overall historical and cultural context for Arendelle's existence.

    I found the parallel reasoning favoring actual BoM culture with these comments about Norway quite striking:

    "People just hadn't seen these remarkable landscapes before. The movie represents the folk culture in such an engaging way, and the landscapes and architecture are so stunning, and they are all based on real places."

    "When there is a connection that kids can understand, it becomes a win-win. The kids are saying, 'Let's go to Norway! Can we go to Arendelle?'"

    "An Ancient American Setting" arguing for an actual Mesoamerican model of Book of Mormon culture and geography without archeological evidence is no different.

  • suhein Farmington, UT
    June 5, 2014 1:06 p.m.

    Ugh I hate the word limit sometimes. I take sentences out and then it feels like the whole post doesn't make sense to me any more.

    Before the quote from Bushman I had a sentence where I talked about how in fact it was a popular idea especially in religious circles at the time. I had to take this out because I was reaching the word count but then I failed to go back through and reedit the post to make sense. Sorry and hope this clarifies what I was trying to say.

  • Fred Vader Oklahoma City, OK
    June 5, 2014 1:01 p.m.

    sunhein (also known as Wraith):

    I have read Bushman. It is a good book. Bushman does not back up your "popular" claim. Look at what he wrote and what you wrote. He said the lost tribes theory was "not predominant" (i.e. not frequent or common), therefore not known widely. How could something be "popular" if it wasn't common or widely known? You shoot your own theory out with that quote.

  • Fred Vader Oklahoma City, OK
    June 5, 2014 12:55 p.m.


    Here's my challenge. If you meet this challenge, I will give your challenge a serious look. Find me one, just one, acredited professional non-Mormon archaeologist, historian, or anthropologist studying Amerindian culture or geogrpahy who has produced a work directly disproving a single Sorenson claim. Just one.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    June 5, 2014 12:54 p.m.

    Dear The Wraith:

    Much of the information in the Book of Mormon couldn't have been accessed by anyone because it was completely unknown at that time.

    The Spaulding theory and View of the Hebrews have both been totally discredited many years ago. They are nothing like the Book of Mormon. NO ONE in the early days EVER made the claim that Joseph wrote the book himself. Why? Because they knew him and they knew he was totally incapable of writing it. It wasn't until many years later that detractors began to make the claim that Joseph wrote it after other theories were totally debunked.

    Joseph did not have access to all the materials you claim. These are claims made by detractors who are left with no other alternative than to make up a lot of bogus facts.

    Joseph couldn't possibly have written it. In addition, statistical word print studies have proved that the Book of Mormon was written by multiple authors. The study is so well respected that it was publish in the statistical professional journal.

    Again, there are none so blind as those who will not see!

  • suhein Farmington, UT
    June 5, 2014 12:44 p.m.

    Vader: "No it wasn't"

    All you have to do is read Rough Stone Rolling and you see the following:

    Although not predominant, the lost tribes theory did appeal to religious thinkers eager to link Indians to the Bible. From the seventeenth century onward, both Christians and Jews had collected evidence that the Indians had Jewish origins. Jonathan Edwards Jr. noted the similarities between the Hebrew and Mohican languages. Such Indian practices as 'anointing their heads, paying a price for their wives, observing the feast of harvest' were cited as Jewish parallels. Besides Edwards, John Eliot, Samuel Sewall, Roger Williams, William Penn, James Adair, and Elias Boudinot expressed opinions or wrote treatises on the Israelite connection." Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 96.

    Just to be clear, I never said it was dominant, just popular. And Bushman, a Mormon historian, backs that up here. I'm always surprised that most Mormons are completely ignorant of what their own historians teach. Just in Bushman's alone he talks about ideas of Jewish decent, information Smith would have access, and much more. Read your own historians.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    June 5, 2014 12:37 p.m.

    Yes Verdad I've read his book. I found his conclusions, methods, and evidence to be laughable. Pretty harsh but there you go.

    Here's my challenge. If you can meet this challenge I'll give Sorenson a deeper look. Find me one, just one, accredited professional non-Mormon archaeologist, historian, or anthropologist, studying Amerindian culture or geography that agrees with Dr. Sorenson. Just one person in these fields of study who has produced a work supporting a single Book of Mormon claim even. Just one.

  • Craig Clark Boulder, CO
    June 5, 2014 12:33 p.m.


    "....I would love to learn more about this excellent library, Mr. Wraith, and about the evidence demonstrating that Joseph Smith used it...."

    Joseph Smith didn’t have access to much in the way of books. But Wraith does touch on a point historians have noted on the popular culture of Joseph Smith’s time regarding origins of indigenous peoples in the Americas. That native tribes might be a remnant of the legendary ten lost tribes of Israel was an oft-repeated albeit speculative theory going back into colonial America times. A popular book on the subject was Reverend Ethan Smith’s View of the Hebrews published in 1823, the same year as Joseph’s first visit from Moroni. Whether or not Joseph ever read View of the Hebrews or had access to it is not known.

  • Fred Vader Oklahoma City, OK
    June 5, 2014 12:25 p.m.

    "The idea that the Native Americans came from a lost European or Middle Eastern group of people was actually very popular during Joseph Smiths day." No it wasn't.

    "There were books written with this theme he undoubtedly had access to (whether he read them or not no one will know)" No there wasn't. If one is referring to the Spaulding manuscript, the Spaulding story is not remotely similar to the BoM. It is simply a retelling of the Columbus story, with Romans inserted instead of Italians.

    "This is why so much of the BofM cultures seems to be Roman in nature. Chariots, steel swords, metal armor, shields and so on." These items predated the Romans, and were available in the middle east during the time of the BoM story.

    "But there isn't a single non member scientist in any field studying the Amerindians that agrees with them." There also isn't a single non member scientist that has even attempted to point out, with actual data, where he is wrong. Who cares if they dismiss it out of hand? If they have not attempted to review his claims from a scholarly perspective, their opinions mean nothing.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 5, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    I've read Robert Paul's book, and, in my judgment, it doesn't really support your claim.

    Furthermore, your references to casual comments from unnamed "archaeologists" and unidentified points from "thousands" of unnamed books don't actually engage a single claim made in Professor Sorenson's book.

    Have you read Professor Sorenson's book?

  • Semi-Strong Louisville, KY
    June 5, 2014 12:22 p.m.

    The Wraith,

    I cannot recall (in my nearly 40 years in the church) any researchers, professors, or otherwise indicating that the evidence was unassailable. Simply that the fact that there is not corroboration is untrue.

    Note that if physical evidence alone would convince anyone then I would place more of a priority on it. But there is good evidence for much of biblical history (at least the NT - note this was not always the case even in my lifetime). Yet how many are convinced by this? Why? Because the fact that the places and even people existed is not the same a proof they were led by God. If someday someone discovers an ancient city that translates to Bountiful with a history of great disruption circa the year 33 and then stories of divine visitation, I really don't think it would matter to most. A few? Sure. But most would look at it just as they do the NT or OT. Interesting that the places existed and that people thought God was interacting with them (but they were unsophisticated rubes).

    "Men Occasionally Stumble Over the Truth, But They Pick Themselves Up and Hurry Off" (attributed to Winston Churchill)

  • TheProudDuck Newport Beach, CA
    June 5, 2014 12:09 p.m.

    "Proof by parallels" will always be vulnerable to the answer that the method consists of painting a bulls-eye where the shots have already landed.

    It would be an astonishing thing if a young Joseph Smith could have authored the Book of Mormon himself, or with the assistance of his acquaintances, in a manner reasonably consistent with the accounts of the book's production.

    It would also be an astonishing thing for a sizeable Old World-derived civilization, with advanced technology and social institutions and Old World crops and animals, to have flourished for a thousand years without leaving a single unambiguous trace -- no archaeological relics, no linguistic traces, no identifiable genetic influence in the human population, no surviving Old World plant or animal species (or even fossil plant pollen), no survival of technologies like metal smelting or the wheel that, elsewhere, are typically too valuable to lose.

    If your understanding of faith is such that you can declare belief in a thing by faith despite the weight of the evidence being contrary, then you can retain belief in the Book of Mormon as an ancient document by that kind of faith.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    June 5, 2014 12:07 p.m.


    I will soon run out of posts but oh well. It is a matter of historical fact that both Manchester and Palmyra had well stocked libraries for their time. While there is no evidence that Smith checked anything out (which is why I said we'll never know if he actually read them) Robert Paul writing for BYU has said that he used at least the Palmyra library. He goes on to talk about bookstores and auctions in the area providing ads from newspapers as evidence.

    In May 26, 1819 there was a long article in the Palmyra Register about how the area had once been inhabited by an advanced civilization.

    In the Wayne Sentinel on October 11, 1825 a long article appeared detailing how the Indians were descended from Israelites.

    There is more of course but I believe this is enough to show that Smith didn't grow up in a vacuum. All of this is easily available from the BYU history department and books like Rough Stone Rolling, all Mormon sources. As I said we'll never know what Smith actually read or not, but it was available to him.

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    June 5, 2014 11:52 a.m.

    Also for CinciMan there are plenty of books, thousands actually, that refute Dr. Sorenson's work - they are collectively known as every single book in modern Amerindian studies.

    The reason no one else in the field directly refutes works by Mormon archaeologists, not because they can't but because they don't even look at it as serious scholarship. For people in the field I've spoken to they see themselves as researching the actual history of the Amerindians whereas "Mormon archaeologists" are busy trying to prove there was an actual Mount Olympus where Zeus lived. That's harsh I know but that's actually the way an archaeologist friend put it to me.

    Dr. Sorenson and researchers like him have done an excellent job convincing members that there are "mountains and mountains" of unassailable evidence. But there isn't a single non member scientist in any field studying the Amerindians that agrees with them. No one is ignoring Dr. Sorenson's evidence or claiming it doesn't exists. They just disagree with his interpretation of what it means, and again most importantly not a single independent researcher agrees with any of the claims off Mormon archaeology.

  • Mark from Montana Davis County, UT
    June 5, 2014 11:47 a.m.

    I have never understood the need to find the exact setting of the Book of Mormon. You either take the book on faith or you disbelieve it. Trying to find the perfect setting for it is impossible. We have no solid understanding of how the land might have changed over the past 2000 years. Accept it, or deny it based on the doctrinal teachings it contains.

  • Verdad Orem, UT
    June 5, 2014 11:43 a.m.

    I would love to learn more about this excellent library, Mr. Wraith, and about the evidence demonstrating that Joseph Smith used it. Can you share some references?

    My take-away from Professor Sorenson's book, by the way, is that, in his judgment, there's much in the Book of Mormon that points specifically and uniquely to ancient Mesoamerica. That seems directly to conflict with your claim. What do you make of Dr. Sorenson's evidence and arguments? Have you read his book?

  • The Wraith Kaysville, UT
    June 5, 2014 11:28 a.m.

    Happy, Joseph Smith actually did have access to a pretty good library and used it. And yes several people wrote similar stories to the Book of Mormon. The idea that the Native Americans came from a lost European or Middle Eastern group of people was actually very popular during Joseph Smiths day. There were books written with this theme he undoubtedly had access to (whether he read them or not no one will know) and some he wouldn't have. But the ideas underlying the BofM were very much a part of the culture in America at that time.

    This is why so much of the BofM cultures seems to be Roman in nature. Chariots, steel swords, metal armor, shields and so on. Not much was known about what actual Native American life was like at the time, so Smith simply wrote about it in the way people were familiar with. Then time moved on and the evidence became overwhelming that Native peoples were of Asian ancestry and their culture was radically different than the "roman" ideas of the past those old ideas were abandoned.

  • MarkMAN West Columbia, TX
    June 5, 2014 10:11 a.m.

    It is also true that there is mountains of logic from evidence to disprove. From my own experience, God ensures neutrality with respect to evidence. Were it not so, we could not choose, the choices would have been made for us. If you want to know, you have to ask.

    But Brigham Young once wrote that the days would come that the evidence would be so strong that those who chose not to accept would be kindly moved to their respective glory. Whether that was his own opinion or otherwise, I do not remember. Until then, neutrality will continue that we might be ensured of keeping that powerful and wonderful gift of choice.


  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    June 5, 2014 8:51 a.m.

    Isn't it interesting that those who oppose, deny, or choose not to believe the research and writings of professionals, such as Dr. Sorenson, are not able to publish their own books that refute the 400+ evidences written about in Dr. Sorenson's book? Think of the money they could make and the name they could make for themselves if they could offer credible rebuttal material equal in stature to the works of Dr. Sorenson. As their best alternative, they simply take a position that they don't believe that a single stitch of evidence exists. Wow, that makes a statement. I'm impressed.

  • happy2bhere clearfield, UT
    June 5, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    That's always been one of the things about the history part of the Book of Mormon that I wondered about. Could even the most learned scholars of the day have contrived to write the Book of Mormon? We know for sure that Joseph Smith had little or no access to any library where he could have found archelogical and historical events of that period in that area of America. But could the best scholars of the day at Harvard or Yale have done it? I've always assumed no, and this further makes that case. Even though our faith is not supposed to be based upon the factual evidence of the Book of Mormon, these things like the Mormon Codex do make the Book of Mormons very existence almost supernal. Which I guess it is.

  • Cats Somewhere in Time, UT
    June 5, 2014 7:50 a.m.

    I read Dr. Sorensen's book years ago and it opened up a whole new world for me. This is a fascinating subject. There are literally mountains of evidence to support the B of M--especially the Mesoamerican theory. I appreciate Dr. Petersen's work as well and have read a lot of his stuff.

    To those who attack and criticize the B of M my response is, there are none so blind as those who will not see.

  • procuradorfiscal Tooele, UT
    June 5, 2014 7:18 a.m.

    Re: ". . . to announce that there’s no supporting evidence at all is to go too far."

    And, of course, no genuine, informed scholar would ever make such a statement.

    It's sad that, while mainline archaeologists still hold long, boring seminars and engage in endless argument over matters such as whether biblical Ai ever existed, or whether it may be located at the et-Tell site, or at some other, like Khirbet el-Maqatir, discussion of serious Book of Mormon geography still gets lumped together with topics like the distribution and feeding habits of unicorns.

    So much solid, unassailable research has been done by scholars like Dr. Sorenson, you'd think he and his body of research would at least pose a challenge to the dismissive haters. That they continue with snarky ad hominem, rather than serious review and debate, speaks volumes about what they actually fear.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    June 5, 2014 6:40 a.m.

    John Sorenson is one of the most educated persons on earth about evidences of the Book of Mormon's authenticity and facts about early American civilizations. This should be an excellent read for those interested in the incredible evidences that exist. For critics and non-believers, this is an excellent book to show how little educated, little read, little studied on the subject they are. Daniel Peterson is correct that to say that there is 'no evidence' is simply wrong when the truth is that there is 'no evidence that they believe'. Some of the evidence is so strong that to ignore it completely or to deny that it exists is simply a display of ignorance. Thank you Dr. Sorenson for your incredible life's work.