Skip to comments.Book of Mormon geography stirring controversy
Posted on 03/27/2010 10:27:09 AM PDT by Colofornian
It has been more than half a century since the last big shift in thinking about Book of Mormon geography.
Judging from the commotion in the blogosphere and on rival theorists' Web sites, a dramatically different -- and disputed -- theory is gaining traction among some of the LDS faithful.
The theory, popularized by Rod Meldrum and Bruce H. Porter in the past three years, suggests that Book of Mormon events took place in the heartland of the United States, east of the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. They have popularized the idea at firesides and conferences, on tours of the Midwest and in DVD sets and books.
Next week, Meldrum, Porter and colleague Wayne May will conduct two conferences exploring the heartland model, which they believe answers the question that has enthralled generations of Mormons: Where did the historical events of The Book of Mormon take place?
Meldrum expects 300 to attend his conference Thursday and Friday at Zermatt Resort in Midway, just before the church's General Conference.
Porter says 600 already were signed up 10 days in advance for the conference sponsored by LDS Promised Land, a travel company, at SouthTowne Expo Center in Sandy. That conference also is Thursday and Friday.
The latter was promoted with an ad blitz, including blurbs by Mormon talk-show host Glenn Beck on the radio and the Internet.
"The word is out now. There is a movement going through the church," says Porter, a former LDS institute teacher who lives in Arizona and leads tours for LDS Travel, a company associated with LDS Promised Land.
"It just rings true to a lot of people," says Meldrum, a Provo businessman who quit his job to focus on research and promotion of the heartland model.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints long has held that God has not revealed Book of Mormon geography. The church has no official position on where, in the Americas, the civilizations of the Nephites and Jaredites lived and died out centuries ago.
For its first 100-plus years, most Mormons assumed the civilizations ranged over the entire Western Hemisphere, and that the "narrow neck" between "land north" and "land south" described in scripture was the isthmus of Panama.
But, in the 1950s, careful reading of the text led scholars to propose a more limited geography and since then, most of the dozens of theories have focused on "Mesoamerica," a region that includes southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and the northwestern part of Honduras and El Salvador in Central America.
Most LDS scholars still believe that region is more plausible because it fits the scriptural text and archaeological and anthropological evidence has been found through the years.
Meldrum and Porter come at the question from a different angle, and that's the source of the controversy.
They claim archaeological and DNA evidence for their model, but they start with what they say are 36 clear "prophecies and promises" in The Book of Mormon and statements by Joseph Smith, indicating he believed the history unfolded in what would become the United States.
For scholars to cling to a Mesoamerican model, Porter says, they must disregard what the church's founding prophet said.
"Most of the people fighting it are people who have something to lose financially or by reputation," Porter says. "I feel for them. ... How would it be when you've spent your life trying to prove The Book of Mormon location ... if someone came along and said you'd ignored the statements of Joseph Smith."
Not only does that assertion anger critics, who say it unfairly casts them as apostate, they argue it is flat wrong.
"They are trying to put us down when that's not at all what we believe," says Steve Carr, a retired pediatrician who is senior vice president for the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum.
That group sponsors an annual conference and its web site in recent months posted a series of articles refuting the claims of the heartland advocates.
Joseph Smith may have alluded to the United States as the home of the Nephites, but he also wrote near the end of his life, Carr says, that the history took place in Central America.
"He was just guessing like a lot of other people," Carr says. "A lot of things they take as revelation are just ideas, not revelation at all. "
Porter retorts: "He [Smith] either knew or he didn't know. If he didn't know, what was he doing?"
Porter and Meldrum believe the statements supporting Central America were written by Smith's colleagues rather than the prophet himself.
Michael Ash, who is on the management team of Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR), argues the heartland advocates' methods undermine not only scholars, but also the church itself.
"Implicitly they're saying that Joseph Smith received the revelation ... and the leaders of the church are out of harmony with it," Ash says.
FAIR posted an extensive series of articles rebutting the heartland model on its Web site, triggering an ethernet shouting match with Meldrum in 2008 and 2009.
Meldrum and Porter say they are careful not to make claims counter to church teaching and to ensure it is presented as a theory, not fact.
Carr, at the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, says scholars and those who trust them are bothered by other aspects of the heartland model. "They are ignoring the archaeological and geologic aspects of The Book of Mormon," he says.
Mormon DNA experts say the latest DNA evidence cannot prove nor disprove The Book of Mormon, Carr says.
John E. Clark, an anthropologist at Brigham Young University, says he hasn't spent much time analyzing the heartland model because of such deficiencies.
"It doesn't fit the geography, the culture or the time period [described in scripture]," he says. "It has almost nothing going for it."
Translation: There's absolutely ZILCHO DNA evidence for the Book of Mormon!
From the article: The theory...suggests that Book of Mormon events took place in the heartland of the United States, east of the Mississippi River from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. They have popularized the idea at firesides and conferences, on tours of the Midwest and in DVD sets and books..."The word is out now. There is a movement going through the church," says Porter, a former LDS institute teacher who lives in Arizona and leads tours for LDS Travel, a company associated with LDS Promised Land. "It just rings true to a lot of people," says Meldrum, a Provo businessman who quit his job to focus on research and promotion of the heartland model.
Yeah, that's how Mormons determine truth...
..."'It just rings true...
...It feels like a burning in the bosom..."
...Or to quote Joseph Smith: "The first principles of man are self-existent with God...This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life...you taste them, and I know that you believe them. You say honey is sweet, and so do I. I can also taste the spirit of eternal life." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 354-355)
(So Joseph Smith determined his theology by "taste tests" -- just like he determined whether spirits were angels or demons via the color his hair! -- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 214)
This all just shows Lds say the focus is on supernatural revelation -- but they use sentimentality (feelings, "rings true," "tastes true") to determine truth. That's why heir repetitive "bearing their testimony" is so feelings-based.
False geography based on inventive writing (of sorts).
Ah, is this one of the reasons why the Lds church owned Deseret News/Mormon Times gave Ash & FAIR a weekly column -- so that it could defend itself even against their own grassroots???
So who are the "apostates" here "out of harmony" with Joseph Smith? The leaders of the Mormon church???
I’m going to give you til sundown to settle this, I’ll be back then.
Since there is no “LDS geography” they are free to speculate all they want. You can’t find what doesn’t exist!
What a bunch of friggin kooks.
That’s true - LDS anything is so funny it’s really sad. How can supposedly intelligent people today can believe that stuff ...
In fact it was done as soon as the BOM was penned.
It is fiction, nothing more.
They have better writing now, on the SyFy Channel. I swear I want to open up a nightclub in Salt Lake or Provo and name it Caprica... (I'm not brave enough to name it Kolob!)
oh and by-the-way, Glenn Beck is doing the radio spots for this conference...
Just ASK GOD about it!!
Just like when trying to find out if the BoM is 'true' or not!
What good is a stinking Living Prophet® if a SIMPLE question like where the BoM took place is not answered?
After all, GOD let the BLACKS be priests; finally!
Just PRAY about you guys, and get ON with the PROGRAM!
The theory...suggests that Book of Mormon events took place in the heartland of the United States, east of the Mississippi River...
Well, they keep sniffing closer & closer to the origination point. (After all, Joseph Smith's brain did lie east of the Mississippi River when he invented the BoM.)
Hey, 'twas already clearly revealed as to who constructed the contents of the Book of Mormon...Joseph Smith himself admitted: Behold, thou wast called and chosen to WRITE [not translate, but write, like a novel author] the Book of Mormon... (Lds Doctrine & Covenants, 24:1)
But the REAL action is on Corot-7b!
"Now the way he translated was he put the urim and thummim into his hat and Darkned his Eyes than he would take a sentance and it would apper in Brite Roman Letters. Then he would tell the writer and he would write it. Then that would go away the next sentance would Come and so on. But if it was not Spelt rite it would not go away till it was rite, so we see it was marvelous. Thus was the hol [whole] translated."---Joseph Knight's journal.
"In writing for your father I frequently wrote day after day, often sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone in it, and dictating hour after hour with nothing between us."
(History of the RLDS Church, 8 vols.(Independence, Missouri: Herald House,1951),"Last Testimony of Sister Emma [Smith Bidamon]," 3:356.
"I, as well as all of my father's family, Smith's wife, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, were present during the translation. . . . He [Joseph Smith] did not use the plates in translation."
---(David Whitmer,as published in the "Kansas City Journal," June 5, 1881,and reprinted in the RLDS "Journal of History", vol. 8, (1910), pp. 299-300.
In an 1885 interview, Zenas H. Gurley, then the editor of the RLDS Saints Herald, asked Whitmer if Joseph had used his "Peep stone" to do the translation. Whitmer replied:
"... he used a stone called a "Seers stone," the "Interpreters" having been taken away from him because of transgression. The "Interpreters" were taken from Joseph after he allowed Martin Harris to carry away the 116 pages of Ms [manuscript] of the Book of Mormon as a punishment, but he was allowed to go on and translate by use of a "Seers stone" which he had, and which he placed in a hat into which he buried his face, stating to me and others that the original character appeared upon parchment and under it the translation in English."
"Martin Harris related an incident that occurred during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say 'Written,' and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used."
(Edward Stevenson, "One of the Three Witnesses,"reprinted from Deseret News, 30 Nov. 1881in Millennial Star, 44 (6 Feb. 1882): 86-87.)
In 1879, Michael Morse, Emma Smith's brother-in-law, stated:"When Joseph was translating the Book of Mormon [I] had occasion more than once to go into his immediate presence, and saw him engaged at his work of translation. The mode of procedure consisted in Joseph's placing the Seer Stone in the crown of a hat, then putting his face into the hat, so as to entirely cover his face, resting his elbows upon his knees, and then dictating word after word, while the scribes Emma, John Whitmer, O. Cowdery, or some other wrote it down."
(W.W. Blair interview with Michael Morse,Saints Herald, vol. 26, no. 12June 15, 1879, pp. 190-91.)
Joseph Smith's brother William also testified to the "face in the hat" version:"The manner in which this was done was by looking into the Urim and Thummim, which was placed in a hat to exclude the light, (the plates lying near by covered up), and reading off the translation, which appeared in the stone by the power of God"("A New Witness for Christ in America,"Francis W. Kirkham, 2:417.)
"The manner in which he pretended to read and interpret was the same manner as when he looked for the money-diggers, with the stone in his hat, while the book of plates were at the same time hid in the woods."---Isaac Hale (Emma Smith's father's) affidavit, 1834.
Esp. the Reverend Spaulding issue as well ....
I’ve always wondered how JSjr came up with that planet Kolob.
But then, there are reality shows, rap, America's got ( fll in the blank ), game consoles and texting...