Skip to comments.The fight over Book of Mormon geography
Posted on 05/27/2010 6:44:33 AM PDT by Colofornian
The discussion on Book of Mormon geography was getting heated. Scholars gathered in Provo, Utah, to discuss their theories about where the events described in the Book of Mormon took place. Some placed the Nephite capital city Zarahemla in Mesoamerica, others in South America. Others argued for a setting in the American heartland.
The president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attended the two-day Book of Mormon convention. Although he found the discussion interesting, he was obviously concerned that people were getting a little too worked up about their geographic theories. He decided to intervene.
The Book of Mormon geography conference was held at Brigham Young Academy on May 23-24, 1903. But the advice President Joseph F. Smith gave at that conference 107 years ago could apply equally to current disputes over Book of Mormon geography.
"President Smith spoke briefly," the Deseret News account summarized, "and expressed the idea that the question of the city (of Zarahemla) was one of interest certainly, but if it could not be located the matter was not of vital importance, and if there were differences of opinion on the question 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."
More recently, the Encyclopedia of Mormonism described how "Church leadership officially and consistently distances itself from issues regarding Book of Mormon geography."
But the lack of an official position hasn't squelched interest. The subject attracts highly trained archaeologists and scholars and informed and not-so-informed amateurs and enthusiasts. Books, lectures and even Book of Mormon lands tours abound.
But something is rotten in Zarahemla wherever it may be.
In the middle of what could be a fun and intellectually exciting pursuit similar to archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann's famous search for the lost city of Troy, there are accusations of disloyalty tantamount to apostasy.
In one corner is the more-established idea of a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon. This theory places the events of the book in a limited geographic setting that is about the same size as ancient Israel. The location is in southern Mexico and Guatemala. The person most often associated with this theory is John L. Sorenson, a retired professor of anthropology at BYU, and the author of "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon" and a series of articles on Book of Mormon geography that ran in the Ensign magazine in September and October 1984. A new book, tentatively titled "Mormon's Codex," is in the process of being published.
In the other corner is the challenger, a new theory that places Book of Mormon events in a North American "heartland" setting. Like the Mesoamerican theory, it also is limited in area but not quite as limited. Its symbolic head is Rod L. Meldrum and, more recently, Bruce H. Porter. Meldrum and Porter are the co-authors of the book "Prophecies and Promises," which promotes the heartland setting.
It wouldn't be hard to predict that some friction might come about from competing theories that healthy sparring would occur with arguments and counter-arguments. But it has gone beyond that.
The source of the animosity comes from the heartland theory's mantra: "Joseph knew."
Joseph Smith made several statements that can be interpreted to have geographic implications. Proponents of a North American setting see these statements as authoritative and based in revelation. Mesoamerican theorists think that Joseph Smith's ideas about geography expanded over time and included approval of at least some connection to Central America.
To the heartlander, Joseph's knowledge about Book of Mormon locations is seen as proof of his divine calling and a testament to his being the chosen translator/expert of the book. Joseph didn't just know; he knew everything. This position, however, leaves little room for other opinions or for charity.
"The way I look at Joseph Smith's statements is that he either knew or he didn't know. If he knew, he knew by revelation. And if he didn't know, you've got to ask yourself why he said the things that he said," Porter said. "If he didn't know, was he trying to show off? If he really didn't know, why was he telling people?
"My feeling is that Joseph Smith did not lie," Porter said.
If you don't agree with this line of reasoning, by implication, you think that Joseph lied.
"My authority is Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon," Porter said. "Most of your Mesoamerican theorists, their authority is John Sorenson and Matthew Roper. They picked those as their authority at the neglect of Joseph Smith."
Matthew P. Roper, a research scholar at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute Of Religious Scholarship, naturally doesn't like this characterization. "They seem to be trying to elevate a question of lesser importance, Book of Mormon geography, to the level of the doctrines of the church," Roper said. "And even though they give lip service to things like they know the church has not given an official position, they turn around and say, 'All these people are dismissing Joseph Smith.' "
It is somewhat ironic that believing that Joseph did not "know" also supports Joseph as a prophet. The more Joseph's assumptions about Book of Mormon geography prove to be wrong, the greater a testimony that he did not write the book himself. "We assume," Roper said, "that since Joseph Smith was the translator of the Book of Mormon, and that it was translated by the gift and power of God, that he would know everything about the book that an author would. I would submit that the two are not the same thing. I could translate the 'Wars of Caesar' and not know anything about ancient Gaul or the different tribes."
When Meldrum's theories first became popularized through firesides and a DVD he produced, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) took notice and responded with gusto.
"The way he said things, they attack that more than they attack the evidence that he presented," Porter said.
Scott Gordon, president of FAIR, would not disagree. "We view this as a steadying-of-the-ark issue. We really don't care where he picks for his theory on where the Book of Mormon can take place," Gordon said. "What we care about that he is implying that the church is not following the teachings of Joseph Smith. Which means the church leadership, the prophet everything is not following. And we think that is a very, very dangerous position."
"They are getting really worried because they are seeing this is becoming a movement. That's their words," Meldrum said. "They are just saying it's a movement because they are getting a lot of flak from people who are seeing the DVD and the information and thinking, 'You know what, this makes a lot of sense.' "
But supporters also see the heartland theory as an inspired movement that will transform the LDS Church: "(V)ery few people out there fully grasp the magnitude of this movement and the powerful influence that it is having and the sweeping nature of its message," wrote one prominent supporter. "It will sweep the church and most LDS will not even understand what happened until it's past. Time is our friend."
A movement about geography?
Historian Ronald O. Barney has seen similar attitudes in some people supporting Mesoamerica. One person described a particular Mesoamerican book as "life-transforming" and that the book "changed the way I think about everything."
"People are hanging their faith on evidence of Book of Mormon peoples," Barney said.
"I just think that this way of thinking about our religion is such a waste of time," Barney said, "It almost suggests we don't trust the Holy Ghost. Not only are we worried that he won't reveal to people the truthfulness of the book, but we want to augment it even if we have to bend and distort so that there can be no mistake about its truthfulness."
Meldrum said he doesn't hang his testimony on the heartland theory.
"I don't know that this geography is true. I've said that many times and I want to make sure that that's clear. If President Monson was to tomorrow say, 'You know what? I've had a revelation and the Book of Mormon occurred in Indonesia,' you know what? I'm with him." Meldrum said with a laugh.
John L. Sorenson stands by the Mesoamerican theory, but also the Prophet.
"(Geography) wasn't very important to him and he didn't know much about it," Sorenson said. "Joseph knew what he knew and what he knew was far more important than geography."
Joseph's nephew, President Joseph F. Smith, would probably agree.
And why not? If faith didn't have an actual landing place...for example, if somebody said the Son of God made a visit to earth somewhere in the Middle East, but never outlined where, how believable would that be?
Jesus born in Bethlethem vs. Jesus born somewhere out there???
From the article: Scott Gordon, president of FAIR..."We really don't care where he picks for his theory on where the Book of Mormon can take place," Gordon said.
(Oh, does that mean he can get out an entire map for South America, Central America, and North America, and play "Pin the tail on the donkey" blindfolded, and FAIR doesn't care??? Because there's no much Mormon authority contradictions and scant evidence...it doesn't really matter, anyway?)
Gordon of apologetics org FAIR, continuing: "What we care about that he is implying that the church is not following the teachings of Joseph Smith. Which means the church leadership, the prophet everything is not following. And we think that is a very, very dangerous position."
Well, let's see. Smith seemed to point to Book of Mormon geography as landing somewhere in South America...and the Deseret News' host apologist, Michael Ash, along with BYU and the main Lds apologetics' folks have actually studied the Book of Mormon descriptions of lands, and realize how ludicrous Smith was to make such conclusions. But, they don't want to attack Joseph Smith. So they go after the people who quote him.
(That sounds like a common Mormon apologetic angle).
From the article: "They seem to be trying to elevate a question of lesser importance, Book of Mormon geography, to the level of the doctrines of the church," Roper said.
Can any of us imagine a Bible minus any definitive geography? What? They think an L. Ron Hubbard-style novel with sci-fi locales is just fine for presentation?
My feeling is that Joseph Smith did not lie,” Porter said.
Feelings, nothing more than feelings...
Feelings, down in my heart...
(and it burns so bad I need a TUMS)
I've known people like that.
Fight? What is there to fight about? There is not one shred of evidence to support JS claims.
If they don't "hang their faith" on Jesus Christ, they are hell bound.
If Smith didnt know; and if he knew his followers interpreted what he said as coming from his god, then, indeed, why would Smith tell people he knew?
From the article: If you don't agree with this line of reasoning, by implication, you think that Joseph lied.
Lie? No, Id say the BYU folks; the FAIR folks; the DesNews folks try to be charitable toward Joseph Smith and think he was mistaken. But if Smith knew his followers interpreted what he said as coming from God; and he opened his mouth on the subject, when in fact, he didnt know then Smith was still deceiving people even if one is charitable and thinks Smith was mistaken
Deception doesnt always hinge on intentionality. Smith was still a deceiver no matter how you look at it
Because he knew how his statements would be taken
as authoritatively from God.
You too ???
Ahhh, the new tactics appears to be “It doesn’t really matter if the BoM has any proof (or even if it is false), Smith was STILL a prophet.
What they do not ‘get’ is that if Smith lied or conned about the BoM, then he probably lied
Mormonism is an ENTIRE package - History, doctrines, history of doctrines, pseudo-archaeology, crime, corruption, etc. They cannot separate those from their religion simply because they claim to be a ‘restored’ church - which means an entire denomination - that is the only one that has the truth. IOW, that Christ started a denomination. Either Smith was a prophet or he was a fraud. No way around that.
Christians, however, don’t have those issues. We recognize that our faith in Christ is separate from our ‘churches’.
If they don’t “hang their faith” on Jesus Christ, they are hell bound.
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if they knew where Mountain Meadows was, they would...
They own the monument and land and wont let the victims families near it...
No. They still blame the Indians and John D. Lee (who was acting under orders by the Cedar City Bishop and possibly B. Young himself).
Why should they? That's like demanding white people today apologize because some white people in the past held blacks as slaves.
I'm not in favor of modern day people apologizing for stuff other people did in the past. It's just plain silly.
The bodies were left unburied for two years...
There is no doubt about where all those 140 unarmed men, women, children and babes-in-arms were murdered by the mormons...
The scapegoat for Briggy Young, John E Lee, was taken to the same spot to be executed 20 years later for the horrendous crime..
Any big shot calling himself a Prophet, Seer and Revelator should be able to get all the answers rather easily. Little Joey forgot to ask where those BOM places were. Like Obama he was a Messiah in his own mind.
By the way, this version by Nina Simone is Obambi perfect. PC lefties always care more than we do.
Apology issued Sept.12, 2007.
The wiki is much more “balanced” than the study I learned many years ago. It is not surprising that a stolen manuscript would be different than existing manuscripts, but the book reads true.
Apology issued Sept.12, 2007.
Would you care to post the words of that alleged “apology”
Not a link but the words..it wasnt very long...
Let FReepers judge for themselves...
No “alleged” apology. Fact. An apology is an apology. Period.
Hey, Lt.Calley said he was sorry...
Well, that pretty well sums up where the FR mormons are.
No matter how ridiculous the claim, how much is posted showing it unBiblical, we are supposed to join in the mindset that "it will not affect the salvation of the people" and allow the fallacies to be spread world-wide unanswered and unchallenged or be faced with charges of being "bigots" and "haters".
Not gonna happen.
Lt.Calley said he was sorry...
Lt.Calley wasnt at the Mountain meadows Massacre...
Lt.Calley was in Vietnam and waqs tried for his crimes...
If there was an alleged “apology” either put up or shut up...
One of my brothers lives in Veyo which is just a few miles from that very haunting place. The first and only time I went there there was an astounding silence and an eerie feeling.
I never went back.
I suspect there's at least several differences.
With slavery, you couldn't help but be open about that in the south. We know who the slave owners of the 19th century were.
Difference #1: But with the Mountain Meadow Massacres, only a few individuals were linked to it and only one person paid for the crime...20 years after the massacre.
So how does that relate to the Mormon church "apologizing" for it now?
Because of the ensuing Mormon church cover-up. (The second series of "crimes" related to this). You don't have the strength of the Mormon church the way it was in Utah Territory in the 19th century, and not be able to land anybody to step forward and admit responsibility for those crimes for almost 20 years.
People argue about whether Brigham Young knew ahead of the actual killings, and they'll argue that for a long time. But there's no argument that he knew many of those who were guilty after the killings. He was at that time not only head "prophet" but territorial governor. And he did NOTHING.
And notice most people don't want the conversation to go there.
Difference #2: Some Southern Utah descendents, I'm sure, have journals and diaries right now that revealed more of whom was involved but these have never been exposed as to who was involved. If those family members are still Mormon, and if the Mormon church hasn't encouraged those families to make that information public, that's a crying shame. Shame on the Mormon church for that lack of direct addressing!!!
The FACTS indicate that SOMEone or someTHING did!
Why worry about non-existant GEOGRAPHY when the entire house-of-cards is built on the LIES of two Angels of Light?
Well, when you hold your faith in a top hat all there is left to do is attack the the messenger of Truth by calling them liars, haters and bigots.
Thanks svcw... the mormon newspaper...Sept 12, 2007
CEDAR CITY The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a long-awaited apology Tuesday for the massacre of an immigrant wagon train by local church members 150 years ago in southwestern Utah.
Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve read the church’s statement on assignment from the church’s governing First Presidency during a memorial ceremony at the gravesite of some of the massacre victims at Mountain Meadows, about 35 miles northwest of St. George.
The statement also places blame for the Sept. 11, 1857, massacre on the local church leaders at the time and church members who followed their orders to murder some 120 unarmed men, women and children.
“We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today, and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time,” Elder Eyring said.
“A separate expression of regret is owed the Paiute people who have unjustly borne for too long the principal blame for what occurred during the massacre,” he said. “Although the extent of their involve- ment is disputed, it is believed they would not have participated without the direction and stimulus provided by local church leaders and members.”
Seventeen children survived the massacre that culminated a four-day standoff between local Mormons and a wagon train of Arkansas immigrants making its way to California.
Elder Eyring said that research by church historians, who are writing a book about the massacre that is to be published next year, found that church President Brigham Young’s message “conveying the will and intent ... not to interfere with the immigrants arrived too late.”
The research also found that the “responsibility for the massacre lies with the local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the regions near Mountain Meadows who also held civic and military positions and with members of the church acting under their direction.”
Several hundred descendants of the victims traveled across the country to attend Tuesday’s ceremony. Many of them had sought an apology from the church since the dedication eight years ago of a monument marking the burial site of some victims.
Some have also petitioned the church to transfer to the federal government stewardship of the monument and surrounding lands the church has purchased to preserve the site that church President Gordon B. Hinckley has described as sacred ground.
In addressing that proposal, Elder Eyring said, “The church has worked with descendant groups ... to maintain the monument and surrounding property and continues to improve and preserve these premises to make them attractive and accessible to all who visit. We are committed to do so in the future.”
First problem. JS was a liar and if Mormons would actually critically look at the origin of their "church" they would have no choice but to get out.
They are sorry that a MORMON was convicted of the crime.
One who must have been a VERY good Sharpshooter and a VERY fast reloader to KILL 120 people!
now THERE is a spot whose GEOGRAPHY is well known!
Any big shot calling himself a Prophet, Seer and Revelator should be able to get all the answers rather easily.
Did you notice that apology is in the first line then the article spends the rest of the time blaming people.
Really a strange apology.
Why not say “we messed up and are sorry it ever happened”, next question.
I bet if you had a Thomas Brothers Map....you could find it.
And he certainly was not. However, the MesoAmerican cultures abounded throughout North and South America. The tantalizing traces are there. When Smith was coming up, Americans were fascinated by the civilizations that were so old that not even the Indians knew anything about them, except perhaps in very vague legends and oral histories, transmitted down through the centuries. We still know very little about the subject.
For example, there are various schools of thoughts on when and where the hemisphere was first inhabited, ranging all over the map and from 7-25,000 years ago! I ain't no pal of Joseph Smith, but I am definitely cutting Old Joe all possible slack on this particular subject ... and wish all of my Mormon friends debating the various controversies good luck and thanks for looking in to it.
What exactly makes this massacre site "sacred ground" to the mormon church, since it wasn't mormons who were massacred?
Good for you. If Old Joe was truly a prophet, all of the Mormon talking points should have been silenced by now. Since we all know he was not, we cut no slack.
We express profound regret for the massacre carried out in this valley 150 years ago today, and for the undue and untold suffering experienced by the victims then and by their relatives to the present time, Elder Eyring said.
“express profound regret” for what ???
That the world knows ???
The embarrassment ???
The bad PR ???
That the 17 children who survived and were kidnapped by the mormons for two years until a large ransom of $10,000 was paid to Briggy Young, werent murdered too so they could not tell ???
No real WE ARE SORRY...
as one of the comments reads “The word “apology” only appears in the title of the article”
amd also the statement was not by the “president/prophet” of the mormons but by a Robert Gibbs type...
Last century Gov. Bond of Missouri apologized to Mormons for “Extermination Order.”
Illinois apologized to Mormons for abuses heaped on them by the State.
In both cases Mormons accepted the apology as rendered.
I simply responded to #7 that in fact an apology was issued by the Mormons It was. Period.
What exactly makes this massacre site “sacred ground” to the mormon church, since it wasn’t mormons who were massacred?
Head exploder isnt it ???
and yet the mormons wont let the victims families have uncontrolled access to the cemetery of their loved ones...
Its a sick situation...
For what reason did the mormons even bother to pay lipservice and deliver that pseudo “apology”???
I find you and a few others here quite amusing. I simply stated an apology was rendered. It was.
Was it sincere? Was Gov. Bond’s apology? The State of Illinois? Was Bill Clinton’s apology to Africa sincere?
Have you hugged a Mormon today?
Anti-Mormon legend has it that when the Elders caught Joe smoking and drinking,
Why would that be an “anti-mormon legend” ???
The mormons smoked and drank during that time...
Both Joey Smith and Briggy Young sold liquer to their followers...
Both had dances and parties...
Smith had a bar in his hotel...
Briggy Young cheated one of his followers out of a successful brewery and made it even larger...
Young preached that he didnt smoke but he never ordered the mormons not to..he just said he didnt..
So why is there scant commentary in your various posts about J. Smith’s time in Hickory Grove, Penn?
Let me re-phrase that....Why is so little written about that period of time? Circa 1820-25. A very interesting period in American History.
Much of the land near Hickory Grove was granted to vets of War of 1812. 160 acres each (IIRC)in “wilderness” of Penn.
Was Gov. Bonds apology?
What did Bond need to apologize about ???
The mormons were murdering and kidnapping women and stealing from the citizens in MO..
They were causing riots and controlling the voting booths...
Gov Boggs told them to quit it or leave...if they didnt quit it and they wouldnt leave, they would be made to leave...
Gov Boggs had a responsibility to protect the citizens of his state...
Joey Smith wrote about the crimes the mormons were committing in Kirkland OH and it was the same in MO and said that the mormon god was not pleased with the mormons..
D&C 98:18-19: Behold...am not well pleased with many who are in the church at Kirtland; For they do not forsake their sins, and their wicked ways, the pride of their hearts, and their covetousness, and all their detestable things...
D&C 50:4 what Smith told the LDS church at Kirtland in May, 1831: Behold...have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name...
...the inhabitants of Zion are terrible... (D&C 45:70)
Also, Smith said that the affliction, persecution and being cast out of the land of inheritance (D&C 101:1)
was because God suffered the affliction to come upon them, wherewith they have been afflicted, in consequence of their transgressions... (D&C 101:2)
Have you hugged a Mormon today?
I’ve warned them about their false religion...
How about you ???