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PROS, CONS OF BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY THEORIES Review by Blake J. Allen On Thursday, May 27, 2010, Michael De Groote wrote two articles in Mormon Times,

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Presentation on theme: "PROS, CONS OF BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY THEORIES Review by Blake J. Allen On Thursday, May 27, 2010, Michael De Groote wrote two articles in Mormon Times,"— Presentation transcript:

1 PROS, CONS OF BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY THEORIES Review by Blake J. Allen On Thursday, May 27, 2010, Michael De Groote wrote two articles in Mormon Times, both a newspaper version and an online version sponsored by Deseret News. The articles are entitled Pros, cons of Book of Mormon geography theories and The fight over Book of Mormon geography. Pros, cons of Book of Mormon geography theoriesThe fight over Book of Mormon geography Mr. De Groote has written several articles in regards to Book of Mormon geography and we commend him for his interest in the subject. Indeed, it is important to study such things to gain knowledge and understanding. This article will address the statements made in Pros, cons of Book of Mormon geography theories. The author of the Mormon Times article, Pros, cons of Book of Mormon theories, lists what he considers to be the strengths and weaknesses of Mesoamerica and the so-called Heartland theories on Book of Mormon geography. Here are some added insights to the article.

2 The article only cites Dr. John L. Sorenson as the authority on Mesoamerica geography. It reflects a weakness by only quoting one author. While Sorenson is a reputable scholar and author of several works including the 1985 publication of, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon, other legitimate scholars who do not agree with the Sorenson’s rotated compass concept have also written on Book of Mormon geography and concepts should be brought into the equation.

3 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Strength 1. Geographic correlation Hundreds of different geographic descriptions in the Book of Mormon — such as two seas, a narrow neck of land, a large north-flowing river and so forth — correlate with features in Mesoamerica. Comment: The “so forth” in the article should and must include the narrow strip of wilderness statements in the Book of Mormon, which is a narrow mountain range that ran from the sea east to the sea west and which divided the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla. In the second edition of Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, we write: Alma 22:27 [The Land of Nephi] was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east to the sea west, (see Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, page 404). The most significant geographical landmark associated with Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon is a narrow mountain range (“narrow strip of wilderness”) that divides the highlands [of Guatemala] from the lowlands—or that divides the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla (see Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, page 405 and chapter 23, “Things That Are Narrow”). We propose that the sea east and the sea west mentioned in the above scripture to be the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The only place in all of the Americas where there is an east-west mountain range that touches two seas is that which divides Guatemala from Chiapas, Mexico.

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5 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Strength 2. High level of civilization "There is civilization in Mesoamerica, and civilization is what the Book of Mormon describes," said John L. Sorenson, author of "An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon." "Civilization, meaning cities — even great cities, large masses of people, large wars, big agricultural base for the economy, temples and towers and so on." Comment: The word should be civilizations (plural). Both the Jaredite and Nephite cultures qualify as high civilizations that dove tail with each other. There is no such evidence in the northeastern part of the United States of having one high civilization dating to Book of Mormon times, let alone two high civilizations. Kings, writing, corn, large armies, cement buildings, historical information, cultural patterns and religious hierarchy are all part of the Mesoamerica scene while absent in the Heartland area.

6 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Strength 3. Writing "In Mesoamerica, there are at least 15 types of script, of writing," Sorenson said. "The system of writing that is typical for Mesoamerica is all of the Egyptian style. … The only thing that is different about them is the characters." Comment: Written language becomes a very important piece of evidence in determining the location of Book of Mormon lands. There are numerous statements in the Book of Mormon stating the people had a written language. The noted Maya scholar Eric Thompson writes, “Middle America is the only part of the new world in which a system of embryonic writing developed.” [J. Eric Thompson, The Rise and Fall of Maya Civilization, 2nd ed. (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1966), 189.] This writing system was developed during the Preclassic Period (600 BC–AD 200)—a time period that correlates directly with the Book of Mormon time period. The cultural high point of Kaminaljuyu took place during 500 to 400 BC, Late Preclassic Period. The Middle Preclassic people of Kaminaljuyu are the forerunners of the Classic Maya. The elite of the valley of Kaminaljuyu (Guatemala City) were fully literate at this time period. Other Maya were just learning that writing even existed (Coe, Michael D. The Maya. Fourth edition. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1987, 40.)

7 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerica Strength 4. Archaeology. Mesoamerica has cities — large urban areas that date to the right time for the Book of Mormon. Comment: This is one area that can easily be misunderstood. No greater error can occur than to present an archaeological site or structure as the location of a Book of Mormon place or event that clearly falls outside of the time period of the Book of Mormon. To stand somewhere that dates to AD 700, 1100 or 1400 and state that it may be a Nephite city does not help in the search for the lands of the Book of Mormon. Over 90% of the archaeological sites in all of the Americas that date to the time period of the Book of Mormon are located in Mesoamerica. The outcome is misleading, nonproductive, and even detrimental if we propose correlations in the Book of Mormon with events and buildings that do not fall into the time period and within a logical place setting as determined by internal statements in the Book of Mormon itself.

8 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Strength 5. Peoples There would have to be some remains of Jaredites, of a particular era and scope. There would have to be Nephites distinct from, separate from and opposed to Lamanites. There would have to be Mulekites. And there are, as a matter of fact, evidence for all of these — for such groups, for multiple groups, in Mesoamerica," Sorenson said. Comment: The Olmec culture parallels in striking detail with the Jaredites, to the extent that most Book of Mormon students who have studied Mesoamerica cultures have concluded that the Olmecs and the Jaredites were one and the same. There are approximately a dozen direct correlations linking the Jaredites to the ancient Olmec culture of Mesoamerica. They both came from the great tower; their languages were not confounded; their high cultures parallel each other; and the people in both instances were considered large in stature—all facts supported by the Book of Mormon, by archaeological evidence, and through ancient historical evidence. Furthermore, both the Olmec and the Jaredite cultures demonstrate a dramatic downfall because of a great civil war between 400 BC–200 BC (see Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, second edition, page 96).

9 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Weakness A. Metals Although Sorenson said he has several hundred specimens of smelted metal from Book of Mormon time periods, he acknowledged that most archaeologists would dismiss them. Linguistic evidence, however, finds words for metal that go back to 1,000 B.C. "I see that as a problem for archaeology," Sorenson said. Comment: We agree with Sorenson. Enough evidence exists on metals dating to 800 BC in Mesoamerica that should eliminate this as a weakness.

10 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Weakness B. Directions The East Sea in the Mesoamerican model is more northeast, and the West Sea (Pacific Ocean) is southward. Comment: This is Sorenson’s major weakness in his Book of Mormon geography model. We agree with the Mormon Times article to the extent that in proposing a geographical setting for the Book of Mormon one must adhere to cardinal directions. “Changing the wording in the Book of Mormon [Alma 22:33] from “east” to “east sea” has caused some writers in the past literally to rotate the Mesoamerica map and to inaccurately label the Gulf of Mexico as the “east sea” (see Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, second edition, page 631). In the big picture, the east sea is located along the Caribbean Sea, which forms the eastern borders for the country of Belize and the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico (see Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, second edition, page 637). It would be well for all to understand that Sorenson does not speak for all Mesoamericanists, especially on the concept of a rotated compass. The Editor of Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, Dr. Ted Stoddard writes, “The wording in Alma 22:32 for a day and a half’s journey is not “from the east sea to the west sea” but rather is “from the east to the west sea.” Recognition of that simple fact would have negated the illogical, unsupported thinking that the east sea is the Gulf of Mexico—a misreading of content that has set back Book of Mormon geographical studies by at least half a century (see Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, second edition, page xxv).

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12 What the Book of Mormon says West SeaZarahemlaEast WildernessEast Sea Land of Nephi Lamanite Territory Alma 50:13 And it came to pass that the Nephites began the foundation of a city, and they called the name of the city Moroni; and it was by the east sea; and it was on the south by the line of the possessions of the Lamanites. Moroni South E Alma 50:7 And it came to pass that Moroni caused that his armies should go forth into the east wilderness; yea, and they went forth and drove all the Lamanites who were in the east wilderness into their own lands, which were south of the land of Zarahemla. Alma 51:26 And thus he [Amalakiah] went on, taking possession of many cities, the city of Nephihah, and the city of Lehi, and the city of Morianton, and the city of Omner, and the city of Gid, and the city of Mulek, all of which were on the east borders by the seashore. Alma 53:2-3 2 And Moroni went to the city of Mulek with Lehi, and took command of the city and gave it unto Lehi. After the Lamanites had finished burying their dead and also the dead of the Nephites, they were marched back into the land Bountiful. N a r r o w S t r i p o f W i l d e r n e s s Mulek Bountiful

13 Land Northward Land Southward Nephi Narrow Neck Zarahemla Manti Ramah Moroni East Sea N East Wilderness Peten West Sea Bountiful Mulek

14 Land Northward Land Southward Nephi Narrow Neck Zarahemla Manti Ramah Moroni East Sea N East Wilderness Peten West Sea East Sea Moroni Zarahemla Nephi

15 Land Northward Land Southward Nephi Narrow Neck Zarahemla Manti Ramah Moroni East Sea N East Wilderness Peten West Sea Bountiful Mulek Sorenson’s cities by the East Sea

16 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Weakness C. Statements of Joseph Smith Although there are some apparent statements from Joseph Smith that some Book of Mormon places were in Central America, there is also some dispute that he made those statements. Comment: This has been the mainstay statement of the Heartland model proponents. Joseph Smith did write the statements under discussion. They are reflected in his personal journal. Following are his journal entries for Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26, 1842 (see History of the Church, volume 5, page 44): Saturday, June 25, 1842 Messrs. Stephens and Catherwood have succeeded in collecting in the interior of America a large amount of relics of the Nephites, or the ancient inhabitants of America treated of in the Book of Mormon, which relics have recently been landed in New York. Sunday, June 26, 1842 President Young preached on the law of consecration, and union of action in building up the city and providing labor and food for the poor. I attended meeting and council at my house at six o’clock p. m. The Heartland people have suggested that Joseph Smith was in hiding and therefore was not responsible for the Times and Seasons statements regarding Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon. Inasmuch as the information is reported falsely by the Heartland people, this certainly cannot be labeled a weakness of the Mesoamerica model.

17 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Weakness D. Transporting Gold Plates The distance from Mesoamerica to the New York Hill Cumorah is thousands of miles — a long way to carry a heavy package. Comment: It is approximately 1,750 miles from Veracruz, Mexico (the Mesoamerican location for the last battles of the Nephites) to Salt Lake City and about 2,000 miles from Salt Lake City to New York, and about 2,600 miles from Veracruz to New York. If the Saints could carry pianos from Nauvoo to Salt Lake in three months in 1847, then Moroni could carry a Book of Mormon made of gold sheets walking his journey in twenty-one years. Additionally, peoples of Mesoamerica routinely carried heavy loads over great distances thus negating the “heavy package” problem.

18 From Mormon Times: Mesoamerican Weakness Some question that the limited geographic model of Mesoamerica is big enough to contain all of the described civilizations and travels. Comment: That argument is anemic. Joseph, Blake and Todd Allen have walked the Mesoamerica trail almost 500 times since It is big enough and very difficult to wade through. In addition, the Book of Mormon indicates that it was probably less than 30 days walking travel time from the city of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla. After Alma fled from the court of King Noah to the waters of Mormon, he and his people traveled eight days to the land of Helam. After about 25 years living there, they journeyed one days travel to the valley of Alma and then 12 days to the land of Zarahemla, a total of 21 days not taking into account the time from Nephi to the waters of Mormon. To create an overwhelming distance for them to travel is not logical. The above statement is a weakness on the writer of the Mormon Times article as opposed to a weakness of Mesoamerica as a candidate for Book of Mormon lands.

19 From Mormon Times: Heartland Theory Strength 1. Promised land "This is the promised land. The prophecies and promises indicate that the United States has to be at least some part of the Book of Mormon, because practically every one of these promises in it can only really be applied as the United States," Rod L. Meldrum said. "It is a nation 'above all other nations,' and a 'mighty' Gentile nation. Well, what other nation are they talking about here? I don't think that they are talking about Guatemala here." Comment: The statement that “…the United States has to be at least some part of the Book of Mormon…” is absolutely correct. Of course it is! Moroni traveled from his homeland where his people were destroyed in Mesoamerica and buried the gold plates in the hill near Palmyra that today is called ‘Cumorah.’ As far as we know, when Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith yearly over a four-year period, Moroni never referred to the New York hill as the hill Ramah or hill Cumorah. In writing about the hill at a later time, Joseph simply says, “Convenient to the village of Manchester, Ontario county, New York, stands a hill of considerable size, and the most elevated of any in the neighborhood” (Joseph Smith—History 1:51). Additionally, the verses in 1 Nephi 13 make it clear that there were two groups of gentiles that came to the promised land (bracket statements have been included to emphasize the concept that Nephi is referring to two groups of gentiles, 1) those that came from Spain and 2) those that came from England):

20 10. And it came to pass that I looked and beheld many waters [Atlantic Ocean]; and they divided the Gentiles [Europeans] from the seed of my brethren [the Maya and other native peoples]. 11. And it came to pass that the angel said unto me: Behold the wrath of God is upon the seed of thy brethren [the Maya]. 12. And I looked and beheld a man [Columbus] among the Gentiles [Spain], who was separated from the seed of my brethren [the Maya] by the many waters [Atlantic Ocean]; and I beheld the Spirit of God, that it came down and wrought upon the man [Columbus]; and he went forth upon the many waters [Atlantic Ocean], even unto the seed of my brethren [the Maya], who were in the promised land [Mesoamerica]. 13. And it came to pass that I beheld the Spirit of God, that it wrought upon other Gentiles [The Pilgrims from England]; and they went forth out of captivity [religious captivity], upon the many waters [Atlantic Ocean]. 14. And it came to pass that I beheld many multitudes of the Gentiles upon the land of promise [the American continent]; and I beheld the wrath of God, that it was upon the seed of my brethren [the Maya]; and they were scattered before the Gentiles and were smitten [the Spanish conquest].* * The American Indian were also scattered and put on reservations, but because of the large disparity in numbers of people in the area of the United States versus those in Mesoamerica, the emphasis is placed upon the Spanish conquest. For example, there is no such thing as an English conquest. The Pilgrims came as families to escape religious bondage whereas the Spaniards came as soldiers and they placed people in bondage. Nevertheless, they both brought the Bible with them.

21 16. And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the Gentiles [Pilgrims] who had gone forth out of captivity [to the United States] did humble themselves before the Lord; and the power of the Lord was with them. 17. And I beheld that their mother Gentiles [England] were gathered together upon the waters [Atlantic Ocean], and upon the land also, to battle against them [The Revolutionary War]. Clearly there are two groups of people as indicated in these verses that came to the American continent. It is misleading and divisive to proclaim that the only place that can be considered as the promised land is the United States. Of course, the prophet Joseph retrieved the plates in New York and commenced the marvelous work of the restoration and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. The “promised land” can be in different places at different times. Abraham was led to a promised land. The saints were led to a promised land. And we, if we are faithful, will be led to a far greater land of promise.

22 From Mormon Times: Heartland Theory Strength 2. Joseph Smith statements Joseph Smith made several statements throughout his life that indicate that he believed Book of Mormon events took place in North America. Comments: Again, review the journal entries above of the Prophet in June of With those statements, we can also take the other statements made by him as editor of the Times and Season. Some of those statements include: “It will not be a bad plan to compare Mr. Stephens’ ruined cities with those in the Book of Mormon: light cleaves to light, and facts are supported by facts. The truth injures no one.” “There is no stronger circumstantial evidence of the authenticity of the [Book of Mormon], can be given, than that contained in Mr. Stephens’ works.” “The city of Zarahemla, burnt at the crucifixion of the Savior, and rebuilt afterwards, stood upon this land [Mesoamerica].” “We are not going to declare positively that the ruins of Quirigua are those of Zarahemla, but when the land and the stones, and the books tell the story so plain, we are of opinion, that it would require more proof than the Jews could bring to prove the disciples stole the body of Jesus from the tomb, to prove that the ruins of the city in question, are not one of those referred to in the Book of Mormon.”

23 “The Nephites... lived about the narrow neck of land, which now embraces Central America, with all the cities that can be found.... Who could have dreamed that twelve years would have developed such incontrovertible testimony to the Book of Mormon?” Joseph was the editor of Times and Seasons during the period that the Mesoamerica articles were published. John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff were also involved with the publication. However, if, as the Heartland people state, Joseph knew without a doubt and by revelation where the lands of the Book of Mormon were, why would two apostles contradict what the prophet had said? They certainly would have known his feelings on the matter because of their close association with him. Would not Joseph have requested them to print a retraction of such an erroneous statement rather than to confuse the general membership of the Church? It seems contradictory on the one hand to say that Joseph Smith knew, but that the Church today has not made a formal statement on geography. If Joseph Smith knew in his day, then the current Prophets would know today. In our studies of the lands of the Book of Mormon we have followed the advice given in the Times and Seasons to compare the ruined cities of Mesoamerica with those in the Book of Mormon and have let the evidence speak for itself.

24 From Mormon Times: Heartland Theory Strength 3. DNA Journal studies of Native American DNA shows that the rare X DNA haplogroup is found in the parts of North America where the heartland theorists say the Book of Mormon took place. Although geneticists' dating of the DNA does not correlate with Book of Mormon times, the X DNA haplogroup has its origins in the Middle East, not Asia. Comment: DNA becomes a non-issue. Some good work has been done by and on this subject. We refer you to their websites for more information.

25 From Mormon Times: Heartland Theory Strength 4. Archaeology North America has sites that date to the right time for the Book of Mormon and that match descriptions of fortifications. Comment: This is an inaccurate statement. The Heartland model is aggressively promoting Fort Ancient as a fortified city in the Book of Mormon. Fort Ancient is a settlement of the Hopewell culture that existed primarily in Ohio from 100 BC to AD 500. A major flaw with the Fort Ancient sites is the statement that the wall that surrounds the village is part of the defensive earthworks described in the Book of Mormon. However, modern research has shown that the so called Fort is not really a fort at all. The Ohio Historical Society (http://www.ohiohistory.org) reports the following:http://www.ohiohistory.org “Early investigations at Fort Ancient were conducted in the form of mapping expeditions in the early 1800s and expanded towards the end of the century to surface collecting and full-scale excavations by William King Moorehead, a local man from Xenia, Ohio. Moorehead, along with others, was convinced that the impressive bluff-top embankment walls were created to defend against invaders. Later research showed, however, that Fort Ancient represents an embankment of ceremonial space rather than a fortress.” Archaeological investigations have shown that the timbers at Fort Ancient were on the outer side of the ditches. The Book of Mormon requires the timbers to be on the inner side of the ditches. Alma 53:3 The orders of Moroni, caused that they [the Lamanites] should commence laboring in digging a ditch round about the land, or the city, Bountiful. And he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers; and thus they did cause the Lamanites to labor until they had encircled the city of Bountiful round about with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height.

26 Becan, Campeche, Mexico. By David Webster. This is what a fortified city looks like.

27 From Mormon Times: Heartland Theory Strength 5. Hill Cumorah The Gold Plates were buried in the New York Hill Cumorah. Comment: That is correct. Mormon hid up all the records in the hill Ramah/Cumorah except the few plates (our Book of Mormon, plus the sealed portion) that he gave to Moroni (see Mormon 6:6). It was Moroni who wandered (Moroni 1:1-4) and hid up the records in New York, “a hill of considerable size” (Joseph Smith History, 1:51) according to Joseph Smith, a hill that we have called Cumorah for about 200 years

28 From Mormon Times: Heartland weakness A. River Sidon "The Book of Mormon makes it abundantly clear that the river Sidon runs from the south to the north," Sorenson said. And in Alma 2, Alma and his army wade across the river to fight the invading Lamanites The river Sidon in the heartland model is considered to be the Mississippi River. Comment: Agree. From Mormon Times: Heartland weakness B. Hills There are hills in the land of Nephi. Sorenson said it is always described as "up" in relation to everything else. "Where is the 'up' (in the heartland model)? Is it the hills of Kentucky?" Sorenson said. Comment: Any legitimate study of Book of Mormon geography must pay strict attention to accurate maps, directions, distances, elevations, language and pottery trails, and cultural and historical patterns. Without question, we know that the elevation was up from Zarahemla to Nephi, even though Nephi was southward of Zarahemla. The consistency with which the terms “up to Nephi” and “down to Zarahemla” are used in all of the migration statements should lead all Book of Mormon readers to be impressed with the geographical consistency of Mormon’s writings and the consistency of Joseph Smith’s translation work.

29 From Mormon Times: Heartland weakness C. A West Sea The Narrow Neck of Land has a west side on a West Sea. The border by the West Sea is where Nephi and Lehi and their party landed. If the West Sea is one of the Great Lakes, Sorenson wonders how Lehi sailed to it from Asia. Comment: Agree. From Mormon Times: Heartland weakness D. Climate "Where is the snow in Zarahemla?" Sorenson said. "Where is the snow in the Book of Mormon? Where is the cold in the Book of Mormon? Not a single word that indicates anything other than warmth and even tropical heat." Comment: The Book of Mormon indicates that some of the Lamanites wore nothing more than a loin cloth (see Alma 3:5) which would not be logical in a cold weather climate like the northeastern part of the United States.

30 From Mormon Times: Heartland weakness E. Lack of Civilization The evidence of the type of high civilization described in the Book of Mormon is less prevalent than in Mesoamerica. Comment: Hopewell settlements were small and not even considered to be as large as a village. We read from the Ohio Historical Society report, “Though the structure of Hopewell economy and settlement is similar to those of the Early Woodland period, there are more settlements, with a higher concentration in major valleys. Despite the impressive accomplishments of the Hopewell, most settlements are not what could be described as “villages.” They are more accurately termed “hamlets.” These hamlets were multi-seasonal and permanent, but were comprised of only one or a few houses.

31 Summary: Some have stated that we should not concern ourselves with Book of Mormon geographical locations because the Lord will reveal that information when He is ready. Yes, He has and will continue to reveal such information when He is ready. However, a better statement may be that He will reveal the additional information to us when we are ready. He has challenged us to study things out in our minds and ask if they are right (see D&C 9:8). We suspect that if we follow His counsel, we will learn many things about the Book of Mormon that we presently do not know. The burden is not on archaeology to prove either the historicity or the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Rather, by doing proficient and reputable research on Mesoamerica geography, native languages, ancient traditions, and local native customs, we may gain a deeper understanding of the people referred to in the Book of Mormon. Archaeological discoveries no more prove the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon than does restoring the old homes of Nauvoo, Illinois, prove the truthfulness of Mormonism. In fact, the Book of Mormon is not a history book. It is no more a geographical or historical textbook of Mesoamerica than the Doctrine and Covenants is a geographical or historical textbook of America.

32 The truthfulness we seek from the Book of Mormon is spiritual, doctrinal proof that comes in two ways: 1. By adhering to the prescribed spiritual medication contained therein, “even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27). 2. By seeking the confirmation from the same source that made the spiritual doctrine available in the first place: “If ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). If we submit (1) that the Book of Mormon is neither a geographical survey of Mesoamerica nor a historical analysis of such and (2) that whatever is discovered will neither prove nor disprove the Book of Mormon, we may then ask, “Of what value is Book of Mormon research?” The answer is simple. The more we understand about the culture, language, history, and geography of the Book of Mormon, the better we understand the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, the spiritual message of the Book of Mormon is enhanced as we understand the historical and geographical environment of the Book of Mormon. From personal experiences, we know that our understanding and motivation for studying the Bible increases as we walk on the Mount of Olives and as we sail on the Sea of Galilee. Likewise, our hearts are touched and our thoughts are enlightened regarding the history of the restored gospel as we stand in the Sacred Grove and as we ponder at Carthage. These same kinds of experiences await us concerning the Book of Mormon when adequate research points us in a more secure direction.

33 Latter-day Saints have been promised that if they will study and ponder the Book of Mormon, their understanding of it will increase. The Church’s thirteenth president, Ezra Taft Benson, states: “I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “A Sacred Responsibility,” Ensign, May 1986, 78.) In summary, the Book of Mormon is “a record of a fallen people” (D&C 20:9). Its intent is to convince “the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ” (Book of Mormon Title Page). Blake J. Allen is Co-author with Dr. Joseph L. Allen of Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon, second edition, Dr. Allen is the recipient of a doctorate degree in “Advanced Studies in Ancient Scriptures,” BYU, His dissertation was titled, A Comparative Study of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered-Serpent of Mesoamerica, with Jesus Christ, the God of the Nephites. Blake has lived Book of Mormon geography for the major part of his life having begun his travels and studies of Mesoamerica at 10 years of age.


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