There are 39 thoughts on “Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography”.

  1. Pingback: Thankful for the Heartland Model – BofM.Blog

  2. Pingback: I’m Thankful for the Heartland Model – BofM.Blog

  3. The issues for me have been about weather and written language. Many people in the holy scriptures were illiterate. I like your ideas. Hinterlands peoples would not keep records but likely oral traditions. Therefore would dwindle in unbelief. Oral traditions would change over time. I won’t talk about my isses with weather.

    Good essay!

  4. I have been saying for years that this assimilation of the two settlement theories is what makes the most sense. I mentioned this to a Book of Mormon Association leader at a FAIR conference years ago. Sailing up the Mississippi drainage system from the eastern knob of mesoamerica to colonize a fertile easily traveled land is very logical. Also we know that Moroni was in North America, (though in the west), since he dedicated the ground of the Manti Temple for future temple building. I would guess that in his wanderings Moroni could have traveled through much of the United States area, often staying with Nephites and Nephite sympathizers, and sometimes acting in his role as the last great Nephite prophet and head of their church.

  5. This article is incomplete. While it discusses our friends to the north’s fetish with hockey, it leaves unaddressed their even more inexplicable devotion to curling. 🙂 Seriously, a very thoughtful and thought provoking article.

  6. With advances in our knowledge of the rise of Ancient American civilizations, I have been convinced for years that we have to give serious attention to the spread of Book of Mormon related peoples and/or cultural influences throughout the Americas. The misunderstanding that the Book of Mormon historic geography record being limited to Mesoamerica somehow excludes these distant relations has precipitated unnecessary debate that needs to be corrected. Surely, additional records in Mormon’s library will someday contribute much to the lost contemporary histories related to distant lands in North America and South America.

    In the meantime, lets not continue to wrench the record we have beyond its historic geographic limits, adding confusion and fodder for skeptics to argue for fiction.

    The great river highways were essential to the rise of all ancient civilizations. The Usumacinta/Sidon in Central America gave rise to the Nephite/Mulekite, and Maya civilizations during Book of Mormon times, following the collapse of Olmec/Jaredite civilization.

    What about the Grijalva/Sidon alternative? It doesn’t hold water (pun intended). Kirk Magelby argued persuasively at great length (see his Book of Mormon Resources web blog) for my identity of the Grijalva/Sidon. But Mormon revealed it simply in his Alma 22:27 map insert by locating Manti at the headwaters of the river Sidon (in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala). The fact that Manti was the first inland fortification of the NSW border from the Caribbean east sea [am I the only one who has seen this fact?] eliminates the Grijalva prospect, and doesn’t even register a strategic fortification line prospect anywhere between the Atlantic and the Mississippi headwaters,a 200-mile stretch.

    I would be excited to see expansions of Mark’s excellent introduction to this important cross cultural research with Mesoamerica, unencumbered by forced Book of Mormon historic geography speculations.

  7. Bravo on a historically sensible article especially with regards to the shifting of US borders, migrations around 100 BC as mentioned in Helaman 3:10-14, and outposts anciently as well as in our modern day. Thank you for your sound understanding of the scriptural references regarding Book of Mormon geography and history. Archaeologists, astronomers, and mathematicians are continually discovering North American ties with the earlier antiquities of Mesoamerica. Read “American Archaeology” magazine for North American archaeology reconnaissance in which most US sites studied date to time periods well after Book of Mormon times.

  8. There is additional evidence for ancient continent wide cultural and trade exchanges from the excavations at Poverty Point on the lower Mississippi. Archaeologist James A. Ford concluded that the pottery making at that site derived from Indians in Central America and was passed on through people living along the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf coasts of North America. Archaeologist Jon L. Gibson found stones at Poverty Point that came from as far north as the Great Lakes (Poverty Point: A Terminal Archaic Culture of the Lower Mississippi Valley). What facilitated these trade and cultural exchanges was the Coastal waterways and the Mississippi River System. These were the super highways of the ancient inhabitants of North America. These waterways were their principle trade routes. The Nephites were particularly a shipping and boating civilization. This heritage started with Nephi and their journey across the Pacific Ocean, and Mormon tells us that more than five hundred years later they were still a ship-building and a shipping people (Helaman 3:10-14).

    “But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people…and their shipping and their building of ships…cannot be contained in this work.” (Helaman 3:14)

    The dominant geographical feature in North America, east of the Rocky Mountains, is the Mississippi River system. Likewise, the dominant geographical feature in The Book Of Mormon is the river Sidon. Author John Gunther wrote:

    “The Mississippi River remains what it always was—a kind of huge rope…tying the United States together. It is the Nile of the Western Hemisphere.”

    The River Sidon was the Nile of The Book Of Mormon. These parallels are to prominent to ignore or to discount.

  9. Mark’s paper is on the right track for revealing the spread of Book of Mormon lands peoples and cultures (notice plural) from its true heart land in Central America, where Joseph Smith identified it in 1841-42 with ancient Maya ruins. I have also been tracking these influences for many years, including the Southwest (including Utah), Northwest, and this year more intensively to South America in Peru with shared Mesoamerican and Middle Eastern cultural ties.

    Many thoughtful comments for research in progress.

    The Nemenha books claiming to be translated from ancient records related to Hagoth’s migration up the Gulf of California to Utah have all the appearance of modern literary fiction based on a copy cat of the gold plates saga. Modern temple endowment doctrine is the most appealing. Censoring of latter-day church prophets has the ear mark of disgruntled Mormon defector authors. I looked in vain for a prominent and pervasive Book of Mormon literary style in these books as a possible mark for authenticity and could find none of it.

    This saga in no way can satisfy the west coast ship route into the land northward from the narrow neck of land in defense of the heart land theory.

    This idea fails completely on the basis of the Atlantic-to-Pacific space requirement of the narrow strip of wilderness east-west borderline between the lands of Nephi and Zarahemla in Alma 22:27, which captain Moroni later fortified from sea to sea by seven cities in strategic passage routes to prevent a southern invasion of Lamanites from the land of Nephi northward into Zarahemla. These matching routes and fortified cities in southern Mexico and Guatemala have been extensively explored and dated archaeologically to the first century B.C. as required by the text. And the location is right where Joseph Smith admonished us to look and explore in his Times and Season Oct 1, 1842 editorial titled “Zarahemla” that focused on the Maya ruins of Quirigua in Guatemala on the NSW border. So far, this is the only location in the Americas that is able to satisfy all of the geographic and historic archaeological requirements of the Book of Mormon, including and especially all of the historic geographic details of Mormon’s map insert in Alma 22:27-34. (Sorenson’s failure to get this right unfortunately caused a huge exodus of geography students from Mesoamerica.)

    As for the relative importance of Mormon’s map to his record, he described the NSW border landmark in great detail in verse 27 so the latter-day Gentiles would know where to go to return his record to his people, to restore them “to the knowledge of their fathers [history], and also to the knowledge of Jesus Christ which was had among their fathers” (2 Nephi 3:12; 30:5). (For more info go to AncientAmerica.org)

  10. Regarding the footnote about Hagoth, how might the Mentinah Archives, or the records of the Nemenhah tribe, fit in? (I suppose step one would be to determine the veracity of these [purported?] records.)

    The Nemenhah do not allow the public to view their records, nor do they currently make PDFs of the translations publicly available. However, images of a few of the records can be found online, and they do sell books of the translations. But, if you do a little Internet archeology, links to PDFs may still work.

  11. Some of the Heartland arguments seem to rely on a belief that the USA has to be identified strongly with the Nephite nation as a prototype, and prophecy, of the future important role of the USA, including as host for the Restored Gospel. Even though the man foreseen by Nephi as first bringing people from the Old World to the Promised Land is pretty clearly Columbus, the Heartland hypothesis seems to focus on USA land instead of all of the Americas. There seems to be an investment in national pride that motivates it.

    I served 20 years in the US military, and believe strongly that the USA has had an essential role in preserving freedom, including freedom of worship, for all mankind. Nevertheless, the Book of Mormon promises are made especially to the descendants of Lehi, most of whom live in the Indian and mixed ancestry populations of Latin America. They don’t have to come to the USA to receive their blessings. They are already in the Land of Promise.

    • “There seems to be an investment in national pride that motivates it.”

      I beg to differ.

      It has nothing to do with “national pride”.

      It has everything to do with the interpretation of scripture, as well as supporting geographical models.

      If one takes the declarations found in modern and ancient revelation about the land of the latter day restoration and the designated gathering places where both the repentant Gentile and descendants of Lehi will initially and ultimately gather together to receive their inheritances, it is not unreasonable to conclude that those gathering places are located in the Center of the United States, both anciently and in modern times.

      The land of the Abrahamic covenant is identified in modern revelation, and it is not a stretch to conclude that said land could have been just as relevant during Book of Mormon times, as it was during the LDS restoration movement.

      I would suggest that you do a little cross referencing of the key words found in the following passages of scripture-

      “And I hold forth and deign to give unto you greater riches, even a land of promise, a land flowing with milk and honey, upon which there shall be no curse when the Lord cometh;
      19 And I will give it unto you for the land of your inheritance, if you seek it with all your hearts.
      20 And this shall be my covenant with you, ye shall have it for the land of your inheritance, and for the inheritance of your children forever, while the earth shall stand, and ye shall possess it again in eternity, no more to pass away.” (D&C 38 )

      “land of promise”

      “land flowing with milk and honey”

      “no curse when the Lord cometh”

      “land of your inheritance”

      “this [land] shall be my covenant with you”

      Using those keywords to search the scriptures as one studies the ancient Abrahamic land covenant and how it emerges in modern times, and the significance of the past and future gatherings in prophecy related to Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, etc., can proffer a legitimate narrative that differs with your own.

      It is not my purpose to change your mind, which is unlikely, because you are so heavily invested in your own set of beliefs, but rather to suggest that accusing people of believing in the heartland model based on “national pride” is a rather petty and unfounded assumption.

      Heartlanders have their reasons for believing what they do, which are every bit as intelligent, authentic and legitimate as the geographic and scriptural assumptions upon which you base your beliefs.

  12. Hugh Nibley wrote about how religious rituals among the Hopi correlated strongly with ancient Middle East festivals. He noted that they believe they migrated up from the south , and have ties to Meso-America. They are in the Uto-Aztecan language group which has as many as 10% arguable cognates with Hebrew. They seem to be a good example of the kind of Nephite dispersion that the author hypothesizes.

  13. On the scale of importance I am sure that Mormon would be more disappointed on the failure of the book’s readers to “come unto Christ” than our failure to positively identify Book of Mormon locations. I predict that in 20-30 years from now there will be still be disagreement by believers as to Book of Mormon locations. Nephi, Jacob, Mormon and Moroni gave us better tools to test the Book’s validity. Just my view. 🙂

  14. Some here have mentioned animosity between the Heartlanders and Mesoamericanists, which I guess I see as a disagreement instead of contention. I have followed this discussion for years and started it with Hugh Nibley’s hemispheric model, but have shifted to the Mesoamerican model after further considering what the Book of Mormon actually says. Nobody has mentioned the copious amount of work found in John Sorenson’s “Mormon’s Codex”. Quite amazing. I disagree with the heartland model because too much doesn’t seem to fit , and as Dan Peterson mentioned above, untenable. Mark Alan Wright gives a knod to the supportive evidence in that model as being good and helpful, but that it doesn’t support the Heartland model as where the majority of the Book of Mormon takes place. Mark Alan Wright has done multiple interview as well explaining other reasons for his ideas that I love. Look them up. Also, nobody has specifically mentioned Brant Gardner’s plethora of work.

    At the end of the day, I agree that it isn’t ” important” where it took place, but at the same time, it was important enough for Mormon to include much of the geography, so why would that not be of any import?

    • Mormon was very particular in including detailed information that he obviously thought would enable us to understand the locations of the events he described. The fact that we haven’t identified them must be a disappointment to him. Why we haven’t been able to follow his directions could be the subject of a future article. Book of Mormon locations are important because they lend credence to the narrative. I know people who have left the Church because they became convinced that the Book of Mormon was fiction as there was no location consensus. Also, as anyone who has been to the Garden Tomb or the Sacred Grove can testify, there is a spirit of place that can add another level of testimony to the events that occurred there. Why does the Church spend so much tithing funds and effort in restoring historical locations? Consider what they have done at Cumorah. What would the Brethren do with other Book of Mormon locations if they were positively identified?

      • The Hill Cumorah is an LDS historical site because it is where the Book of Mormon plates and other artifacts were buried when Joseph Smith was shown them by Moroni, and from which he retrieved them. It is not because there is any record of revelation that it was the same place as the repository of Nephite records that Mormon resorted to while he resigned from his role as military leader and did his extensive work of selecting, copying and summarizing the Nephite records. There must have been a lot of material in that archive because he was well into that work before he discovered the small plates of Nephi and attached them without editing to his own record. The archive is usually pictured as a cave where he could both safely store the valuable records and work on them undisturbed. That is not the kind of stone box that the Book of Mormon was hidden in.

        Moroni himself is not quoted as calling the hiding place “Cumorah” during his four, hours long visits in which he quoted scripture at length and gave Joseph other instructions. He never is recorded as referring to that hill as a repository of other records, or of that area as the site of the last great battle where he led 10,000 people.

        It is understandable that a casual reader identifies that tangible hill with one mentioned in the record found on the hill. But it seems that Mormon wanted Moroni to take the record away from the archive to keep it safe. It seems to me that all these facts indicate this drumlin in New York is specifically the one place in North America that is NOT the original Cumorah.

        The naming of the hill near Joseph’s home looks to me like an informal folk idea that was natural enough but not a result of revelation or careful textual analysis. Names are the most portable parts of geography. Bountiful in Utah is not the Bountiful of the temple where Christ appeared circa 34 AD, nor is it the Old World Bountiful where Nephi built his ship. If there can be three Bountifuls thousands of miles apart, why not two Cumorahs?

        • Raymond,

          You are obviously not aware of at least six documentary sources that confirm it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith, prior to the translation of the Gold Plates, that the hill in Palmyra was anciently known as Cumorah.

          1. The only first-person source comes from the epistle that Joseph Smith dictated on September 6, 1842, which was later canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 128.

          “Glad tidings from Cumorah! Moroni, an angel from heaven, declaring the fulfillment of the prophets — the book to be revealed.” (D&C 128:20)

          The inference is that Joseph knew the name “Cumorah” before the book was revealed. That knowledge could only have come from Moroni. This is substantiated in the subsequent documents.

          2. An early documentary source confirming the above are the lines from a sacred hymn, written by W.W. Phelps. William Phelps lived with the Prophet in Kirtland and was in essence his executive secretary during the Nauvoo period.

          “An angel came down from the mansions of glory,
          And told that a record was hid in Cumorah,
          Containing the fulness of Jesus’s gospel;”
          (Collection of Sacred Hymns, 1835, Hymn 16, page 22)

          It was the angel who told Joseph that the record was hid in “Cumorah.” This hymn was selected by Emma Smith, wife of the Prophet, approved by the Prophet, and published in 1835 with a collection of hymns, under instructions and directions from the Lord. “And it shall be given thee, also, to make a selection of sacred hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me, to be had in my church.” (D&C 25:1)
          This hymn was also included in the 1841 edition as hymn #262.

          3. Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder of the Church and Co-President with Joseph Smith, stated the following in 1831:

          “This Book, which contained these things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him Cumorah, which hill is now in the state of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario County.” (Autobiography of P.P. Pratt p 56-61)

          The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt was complied, edited and published in1881 by his son, from the documents and records left by his father after his death. From the length and detail of the address given by Oliver Cowdery in 1831, from which the above quote is taken, it had to have been recorded by Parley P. Pratt at the time it was spoken. “In writing his autobiography, Pratt relied heavily on his previous writings. After extensive analysis, Pratt family historian Steven Pratt concluded that almost ninety percent of the text is either based on or copied from earlier works” (Matt Grow, assistant professor of history at the University of Southern Indiana.)

          4. The Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, provides two separate items of evidence in the original manuscript of her memoirs. In the first item, Lucy is remembering what Joseph told her after Moroni first appeared to him. The quote begins with what Moroni had told Joseph:

          “Now Joseph beware when you go to get the plates your mind will be filld with darkness and all man[n]er of evil will rush into your mind. To keep you from keeping the comman dments of God and you must tell your father of this for he will believe every word you say the record is on a side hill on the Hill of Cumorah 3 miles from this place remove the Grass and moss and you will find a large flat stone pry that up and you will find the record under it laying on 4 pillars — then the angel left him. [sic]” (Lucy Mack Smith, History 1844–1845, Original Manuscript, page 41)

          Lucy dictated the above about 20 years after the fact, but it is consistent with other evidence. In the following, Lucy recalls directly what her son said in her presence. Following Joseph’s meeting with Moroni at Cumorah, one year before Joseph received the plates, Joseph told his parents that he had “taken the severest chastisement that I have ever had in my life.” Joseph said:

          “it was the an gel of the Lord— as I passed by the hill of Cumo rah, where the plates are, the angel of the Lord met me and said, that I had not been engaged enough in the work of the Lord; that the time had come for the record to brought forth; and, that I must be up and doing, and set myself about the things which God had commanded me to do:” [sic] (Lucy Mack Smith, History 1844–1845, Original Manuscript, page 111)

          In both of these quotes from the Prophet’s mother, she demonstrates that in her mind it was Moroni, who told Joseph, prior to the translation of the plates, that the hill in Palmyra was named Cumorah.

          5. David Whitmer confirmed this in an interview in his later years when he stated:

          “[Joseph Smith] told me…he had a vision, an angel appearing to him three times in one night and telling him that there was a record of an ancient people deposited in a hill near his fathers house called by the ancients “Cumorah” situated in the township of Manchester, Ontario county N.Y…”” (Milton V. Backman, Jr., “Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration,” p. 233)

          6. Parley P Pratt wrote the following, which was published in 1841:

          “An Angel from on high, The long, long silence broke – Descending from the sky, These gracious words he spoke: “Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill A sacred record lies concealed.””

          Perhaps you have sung this song without noticing that it was a quote from Moroni?

          All of the documentary evidence is consistent that it was Moroni who told Joseph Smith, prior to the translation of the Gold Plates, that the ancient name of the hill in Palmyra was “Cumorah.” There is no evidence to the contrary.

          • Thanks for the list of examples of the use of the name of Cumorah for the hill in New York where the records were delivered to Joseph Smith by Moroni. Obviously, the hill became the one geographic point of contact early members had to associate with the Book of Mormon. Although 3 accounts are placed years earlier (but are in later accounts), the earliest positive evidence is 1835 that Cumorah was used for the hill in NY and that early members of the Church thought that hill was the same as recorded in the Book of Mormon.

            They also thought of the Isthmus of Darien (or Panama) was the narrow neck mentioned in 3 versus in the Book of Mormon. That is at least as well attested in early statements.

            What is actually stated in the Book of Mormon makes it very unlikely that the hill in New York was the hill mentioned by Mormon where he deposited all of the records except those he provided to Moroni.

            Again, we can name places in the 19th century after places in the Book of Mormon, but it is a mistake to think that Bountiful Utah was where Bountiful in either the old world or new world was located. The City of Moroni in Sanpete County, isn’t the City of Moroni mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The City of Nephi in Juab County isn’t the City of Nephi in the Book of Mormon. I don’t understand why the idea that early members of the Church could just name important places after Book of Mormon place names.

            I guess what I am trying to say, the hill in New York may be the hill Mormon buried all the records he had except those he gave to Moroni or they may not be the same location. Both are easily acceptable interpretations of the data, include those you presented.

          • Mike,

            I would be interested to know what you think is stated in the text that makes it unlikely that the NY Cumorah is not where Mormon hid all his records?

      • Interesting comment.

        1. I think Mormon put in his few references to geographic specifics–mostly in the context of military operations–to help us understand the specific points he was trying to make and not because he was giving us hints as to where Book of Mormon lands were. I have seen this many times in accounts of battles or other events throughout history, even when we know exactly where an event took place, geographic information is supplied to help us understand details being told.

        2. Cumorah in NY certainly plays a major role in the restoration. I think that is why the Church has invested in it.

        • Mike,

          Mormon was a military commander and I’m sure that some of his geographical references were written for a better understanding of their military tactics and strategy. However, many of his geographical references were not in a military context. Mormon inserted a complete overview of the lands of the Nephites and of the Lamanites in the midst of a missionary story in Alma 22.

          As for the Brethren and Cumorah, I wrote to Elder Dallin H Oaks in 2005 asking him about his apparent support for the Mesoamerica theory in his 1993 address to FARMS. He replied in a personal letter, “I was very concerned with the suggestion in your August 11 letter that I am a supporter of the view that the Hill Cumorah in Palmyra is not the Hill Cumorah of the Book of Mormon.”

          • I almost mentioned Alma 22, which is the most prominent exception to military operations for the geographic details and which is what I had in mind when I wrote “other events.” While it is in the broader context of missionary work, it is the specific context of the King of the Lamanites sending out his proclamation.

            Alma 22 is hard to match anywhere. It seems to me it is the primary source of the “hourglass” geography, but only talks about part of the hourglass (the part south of the small neck). Thus, all geographies that insist on an hourglass, are probably prejudicing this chapter over all others.

            I find the discussion in Alma 22 confusing and I don’t think it fits the heartland model, nor mesoamerica, very well. It describes a boundary between Nephite and Lamanite lands as a line between the west sea and the east sea (it is the only reference that specifically mentions both a west sea and an east sea) along a thin strip of wilderness. And then proceeds to talk about Lamanites living roundabout along the sea (not sure if this means north of the border or south, but north seems to make more sense because it then goes on to talk about the small neck) and discusses the small neck and the land to the southward that is “nearly surrounded by water.”

            I am not sure if “surrounded” in the BoM means what we think it means. Over and over again, we read about military battles “nearly surrounded” an enemy because of an attack on two sides. The Lamanites surrounded the City of Nephi, but that didn’t prevent Ammon and his party from arriving at the City of Nephi, nor did it prevent the ability of Ammon to lead out King Limhi’s people–albeit not by the direct route. “Surrounded” seems to imply on two or fronts, and not necessarily anything close to 360 degrees around something.

            The impression I get is that Mormon wants to outline the extent of the Lamanite King’s domain.

            While Nephite history in the BoM is almost exclusively south of the neck of land, Mormon came from a family that lived to the north, going south as part of a military force.

          • Mike,

            I will be away from my computer for a few days but would like to respond to your comments on Alma 22 more fully later.

  15. Dr. Wright thank you for the paper.

    I appreciate you mentioning the Mississippian culture and Cahokia. I have long thought that Cahokia fits the Zelph story very well. Cahokia is within about 100 miles of where Zion’s Camp might have been–different dates in the diaries in my opinion adds uncertainty. Cahokia is currently in the Illinois suburbs of St. Louis. It was the largest city in North America during the height of the Mississippian culture (about 700 to 1200 AD) and according to some scholars larger than London at the same time. Cahokia had trade relations and influence from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Cahokia’s influence and Onandago’s influence are similarly described. And the Mississippian culture, of which Cahokia was a leading example, had strong ties to Mesoamerica. I have long wondered about Lamanite ties to the Mississippian culture after destroying Nephite civilization. I can’t help wondering if there is a link.

  16. Thank you for an article that resonates with common sense and the voice of reason. It’s ironic that people like us who believe in the Book of Mormon should contend about it, seeing that the book teaches so strongly about the harmful effects of contention. Of course it is natural that the people who have a spiritual witness that the Book of Mormon is an actual record of an ancient people should seek out physical evidence, and correlate its events with geographical features. I think some amount of speculation is Ok if done with humility and tolerance for diverging viewpoints, and a realization that one may have to revise one’s views as more evidence is revealed.

  17. Dr. Wright: Thank you for your article. As many know I’ve long been on record for the position that any kind of real-world speculation about Book of Mormon geography, limited or otherwise, is inconsistent with general church direction on the subject. Having said that, the Brethren don’t really seem to care much and there are some here and there who do or have cared.

    Some observations:

    In Joseph Smith’s day, “Nephitish” would have meant “a Nephite’s” or “of the Nephites” or “affiliated with the Nephites. ” The arcane reference is similar to the fact that the prefix “anti-” has a different meaning today when compared to early Church or Book of Mormon usage. “Ish” isn’t used to describe something that looks like what might have been a Nephite long ago. See Alma 17:26: Lamanitish servants; Alma 19:16: Abish is a Lamanitish woman. Or “Jewish” (15 Feb 1842, p. 691 Times & Seasons]. I think the editors of the History of the Church simply modernized the word Nephitish.

    Cumorah: Again, a controversial topic. When you trace the footnotes to Cumorah in the Book of Mormon and the Topical Guide, you are left with the distinct impression that the New York hill is where it always was at. But, the Encyclopedia reference leaves the door open.

    “General Authority chess:” I am unaware of any General Authority who has ever published any statement supportive of any limited model. In private settings, Elder Oaks has left the door open and Elder HBLee has suggested it isn’t important, but it really isn’t a chess match. I am unaware of any reference in early Church history where there was some sort of debate amongst the Saints about a limited model such that we could “pit[] the words of one Saint against the other.”

    “The point is that there is a lot we still do not know:” I realize that the tautology “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” was coined by a Protestant minister arguing for the the existence of God, but in science, the absence of evidence is suggestive that the proposition sought to be proved with the absence of evidence isn’t really true. In that regard, things aren’t really “clear,” and in fact, there isn’t any demonstrable support either in science or LDS religion for a a limited model. There is, as you point out, support is LDS literature for a hemispheric model, but the Encyclopedia makes “clear” that it doesn’t really matter.

    • Just for the record: I have no idea who might originally have coined the phrase “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” but, in my reading, it’s invariably ascribed to Professor Edwin Yamauchi, now an emeritus professor of history at Miami University of Ohio.

      Professor Yamauchi earned a Ph.D. in ancient Near Eastern studies at Brandeis University but, to the best of my knowledge, has never served nor been ordained as a minister.

      And his comment was made not about the existence of God but, very specifically, about the limits of archaeological evidence in historical research.

      • W.F. Grimes, The Excavation of Roman and Mediaeval London, reviewed by A.R. Burn, The Classical Review 19.2 (Jun. 1969) 321: “….even while remembering the important fact that absence of evidence is not identical with evidence of absence,….” I guess I don’t really know the origin of the phrase, although it is an explication of the logical fallacy of an appeal to ignorance.

  18. I don’t sense much animosity among Mesoamericanists to Heartlanders.

    But I’ve encountered, very personally, the hostility that some Heartlanders plainly feel toward Mesoamericanists. I’ve received literally scores of emails,for example, in which devotees of the Heartland model have called me an apostate, accused me of despising the Prophet Joseph Smith, and so forth.

    I think it’s far less important to believe in a particular model of WHERE events recorded in the Book of Mormon took place than to believe that they DID take place. So, although I think their position is untenable, I bear no ill will toward Heartlanders. But I object passionately when some seek to divide the Church over so unimportant a matter as the precise GPS coordinates of the Jaredite city of Lib.

    • Dan,

      I don’t question the civility of the “Interpreter,” but in questions regarding Book of Mormon Geography, contrary to your mission statement of seeking “scholarly investigation and analysis” of LDS scripture, your board refuses to publish anything contrary to the Mesoamerica Limited Geography Theory.

      • Interpreter has no rule prohibiting acceptance of articles written from a non-Mesoamericanist perspective.

        It’s possible that some such articles have been submitted, but, if so, I’m unaware of them.

        And even if some turn out to have been submitted and rejected, that wouldn’t, in and of itself, prove that they were rejected because they disagreed with the Mesoamerican theory: We’ve rejected a number of articles predicated on a Mesoamerican view, as well as articles having no connection with geography at all.

        • Dan,

          “Interpreter” has not published any articles contrary to the Mesoamerica Theory, but perhaps I am the only one who has submitted one. It was a short article on the subject of the direction of flow of the River Sidon, as taken from a more careful reading of the text. It was rejected, I was told, because the board disagreed with my findings.

          • Mike,

            I have not posted it elsewhere, but if Dan will allow me to do so on this website I’m sure there are others who would also like to read it.

  19. Mark,

    The evidence you have presented for cultural exchanges and influences from Mesoamerica to North America is, as you have indicated, only the tip of the iceberg as to the evidence available. So much so that it brings into question the entire idea of confining the geography of the text of The Book of Mormon to Mesoamerica. Contrary to popular opinion, brought on by false reasoning, the text of The Book of Mormon is not territorially confining.

    There is a major problem with your “Hinterland Hypothesis” generated from Alma 63, where the people went north beyond the scope of the text. In Helaman 3 there are migrations northward that appear to be even further north that some of those in Alma 63 as they then travelled north to “an exceedingly great distance.” These people had to learn to build houses with cement because of the desolation left by the Jaredites who formerly inhabited the land. This land was called Desolation and was certainly within the scope of The Book of Mormon.

    “And [Bountiful] bordered upon the land which they called Desolation, it being so far northward that it came into the land which had been peopled and been destroyed, of whose bones we have spoken, which was discovered by the people of Zarahemla, it being the place of their [the Jaredites] first landing.” (Alma 22:30)

    Both Book of Mormon civilizations ended at Cumorah. All of the documentary evidence indicates that was it was Moroni who stated that Cumorah was the ancient name of the hill in New York. Your suggestion that Mormon 6:6 indicates that the plates of Mormon could not have been buried in ancient Cumorah is also false reasoning. The fact that Mormon gave these plates to Moroni does not preclude Moroni from burying them in the same hill about 35 years later.

    I appreciate your efforts to bring the Mesoamerica and Hinterland theories together. I believe that they are together within the text of The Book of Mormon.

  20. To Will:
    I’m not sure where the apparent animosity stems from since both camps share the same faith and have essentially the same goal, but scholarly pride seems to be at work……
    3 Nephi 11:28 …”And there shall be no disputations among you… 29 For verily, verily I say unto you he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. 30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctirne, that such thing should be done away.”
    So there is the source of our trouble. Additionally, “scholarly pride” only adds to the trouble.
    To Mark Alan Wright: You have done a great service to both camps by your civil discourse. Thank You.

  21. Its nice to see some starting to consider north America for at least part of the Book of Mormon, yet their is still a clear distaste for the heartland model from both fair and interpreter writers. Even in this paper, harmonizing seems to only mean saying that maybe a small part of the story took place in North America. Time and time again i have seen articles from fair and the interpreter taking time attempting to discredit different parts of the heartland model, yet I have not seen the same type of analysis concerning discrepancies with the Mesoamerican model. I am no expert concerning these things, but i can say that i have read quite a few articles and books dealing with Meso American geography and evidence. I have only recently between exposed to the heartland model but only after a short book and few articles i am more convinced of the latter model. I’m not sure where the apparent animosity stems from since both camps share the same faith and have essentially the same goal, but scholarly pride seems to be at work……

  22. Intelligent, thoughtful, and common-sense article with a great insight — thank you.

    What I have noticed over decades of reading the Book of Mormon is how through most of Nephite history — until the very end, when Mormon is chronicling the last few battles — anything north of Bountiful is pretty much just a vague, featureless “up there” — a bit like how many (if not most) Americans think of Canada. 🙂 Lots of migration clearly went on, but the people vanished from the Nephite record as a result. You’ve given a defensible explanation as to where some ended up.

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