Book of Mormon/Geography

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    Book of Mormon geography

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Book of Mormon Geography

The geographical setting of the Book of Mormon has been the subject of serious study and casual speculation since before the book was first published. The Church has been neutral when it comes to issues relating to Book of Mormon geography, as is FairMormon. The articles linked below will describe the various theories and examine the strengths and weaknesses of each. (Click here for full article)



A discussion of the Arabian, or Old World, geography of the Book of Mormon enjoys many advantages over discussion of New World matters. Chief among these is the fact that we know we certainty where the story begins—in Old World Jerusalem. There is simply no way that Joseph could have obtained enough information about Arabia to fabricate more than a minute fraction of the travels described in First Nephi. (Click here for full article)

  • Matching Old World geography with locations described in the Book of Mormon
    Brief Summary: The locations and route of Lehi's travel corresponds exactly with locations and known routes used in the Old World. (Click here for full article)
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  • Valley of Lemuel
    Brief Summary: The valley of Lemuel requires several characteristics. In 1995, Potter and colleagues found a hitherto unrecognized wadi[1] which has parallels to the requirements of the Book of Mormon text, including a river of water which is "continually running," which they interpret as requiring a year-round water flow. Although Saudi and US geological surveys have concluded that Saudi Arabia "may...be without any perennial rivers or streams," visits to the area in April, May, July, August, November, December, and January have all found flowing water in the candidate valley which Potter's team identified. (Click here for full article)
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  • The Frankincense Trail
    Brief Summary: Lehi's journey paralleled the ancient "Frankincense trail," a trade route used in ancient Arabia (Click here for full article)
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  • Shazer
    Brief Summary: Regarding the place name Shazer, Nigel Groom's Dictionary of Arabic Topography and Placenames contains an entry for a similar word, "shajir," giving the meaning: "A valley or area abounding with trees and shrubs." (Click here for full article)
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  • Nahom
    Brief Summary: Nephi's party reaches an area "which was called Nahom" (1 Nephi 16:34) near the time that they make an eastward turn in their journey. NHM [the root for naham] appears twenty-five times in the narrative books of the Bible, and in every case it is associated with death. Strikingly, altars dating from the time of Lehi have been found with the inscription "NHM." As one travels south-southeast of Jerusalem along the major trunk of the ancient Arabian trade route, the route branches east toward the southeastern coast at only one point: in the Jawf valley (Wadi Jawf) just a few miles from Nehem. From thence the eastern branch of the trade route goes toward the ancient port of Qana--modern Bir Ali—on the Hadhramaut coast, where most of the incense was shipped. This eastern branch was the major route—the pathways to the south were less used. (Click here for full article)
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  • Bountiful
    Brief Summary: If Nehem is the Book of Mormon site Nahom, then is there a Bountiful to the east of it on the coast? Amazingly, we have the luxury of two excellent candidate sites that are roughly due east of Nehem on the Oman coast. The Astons propose Wadi Sayq as the best candidate for Bountiful, and it impressively fits the criteria that one can derive from the Book of Mormon. Potter and Sedor propose the area of Salalah and the nearby ancient port of Khor Rori as the general site for Bountiful. (Click here for full article)
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New World geography - location of the majority of the Book of Mormon narrative, in the "promised land"—somewhere in the western hemisphere. (Click here for full article)

  • The Church's position on Book of Mormon geography
    Brief Summary: What is the Church's position on questions related to Book of Mormon geography? (Click here for full article)
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  • Evaluating prospective Book of Mormon geographical theories
    Brief Summary: How can one evaluate Book of Mormon geographical theories and determine their validity? (Click here for full article)
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  • Hemispheric geography theory (HGT)
    Brief Summary: The Hemispheric Geography Theory (or HGT) is the traditional understanding of the Book of Mormon. It postulates that the events in the book took place over North and South America, with the Isthmus of Panama as the narrow neck of land. (Click here for full article)
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  • Limited geography theory (LGT)
    Brief Summary: The Limited Geography Theory (or LGT) is a non-traditional interpretation of the text, but one that has gained wide acceptance among the Book of Mormon scholars and readers over the last 60 years. It is based on a close reading of the text, which indicates that the lands inhabited by the Lehites could be traversed on foot in only a few weeks, making the area no larger than present-day California. (Click here for full article)
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  • Location of the Hill Cumorah
    Brief Summary: If Mormon chapter 6 is a literal description of the destruction of the Nephites by the Lamanites — approximately 100 thousand were killed by swords and axes — why hasn't any evidence of the battle been found at the site that was traditionally identified as the hill Cumorah in western New York state? (Click here for full article)
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  • Great Lakes geography
    Brief Summary: I've heard some members claim that the Book of Mormon fits best in a geography located around the Great Lakes, between the United States and Canada. What can you tell me about this geographic model? (Click here for full article)
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This page collects a variety of writings by Church leaders and members throughout its history, illustrating that debate and discussion about Book of Mormon geography has been very free, precisely because there was no revealed or "authoritative" geography. This collection is a work in progress; readers who know of additional statements are invited to contact FairMormon. (Click here for full article)






  • Disdaining Joseph?
    Brief Summary: Do LDS scholars "disdain" the statements of Joseph Smith related to Book of Mormon geography? (Click here for full article)
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  • Definition of "continent" in the 1820s
    Brief Summary: With regard to the location of Book of Mormon lands, it is sometimes claimed that "[t]here's a North American continent and a South American continent in Noah Webster's [1850] dictionary," and that this means that all references to "this continent" must refer to North America. Webster's 1828 dictionary defines a ""continent"" as follows: "1. In geography, a great extent of land, not disjoined or interrupted by a sea; a connected tract of land of great extent; as the Eastern and Western continent. It differs from an isle only in extent. New Holland may be denominated a continent. Britain is called a continent, as opposed to the isle of Anglesey." Therefore, Webster's definition of a "Eastern and Western continent" is equivalent to today's definition of "Eastern and Western hemisphere." (Click here for full article)
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  • Location of Zarahemla
    Brief Summary: It is claimed that the location of the city of Zarahemla was provided to Joseph Smith through revelation and that it was located on the Mississippi River opposite where Nauvoo is located today. (Click here for full article)
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  • Borders of the Lamanites
    Brief Summary: Does the proposal of a Mesoamerican limited geographical Book of Mormon setting contradict D&C 54:8, which discusses the "borders of the Lamanites" being in North America? (Click here for full article)
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  • No maps in the Book of Mormon
    Brief Summary: Why are there no maps in the Book of Mormon? (Click here for full article)
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  • Transoceanic Crossing
    Brief Summary: The Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi chapters 17 and 18, recounts that Nephi built a ship in which the Lehi colony sailed from the old world to the new. In June 2010 the History Channel aired a documentary, "Who Really Discovered America?" which claims that it would have been impossible for a ship (such as that made by Nephi) to have successfully carried the people and necessary supplies in a transoceanic crossing. (Click here for full article)
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Sometimes falsified artifacts are used to promote a Book of Mormon geography (Click here for full article)

  • Bat Creek Stone
    Brief Summary: The "Bat Creek Stone" purports to a stone written in Paleo-Hebrew reading "for the Jews". A preponderance of the evidence available argues that the stone is a modern forgery. As exciting as it would be to find a genuine ancient inscription, it would only harm others' belief in the Book of Mormon to advocate forgeries in contradiction of good evidence. (Click here for full article)
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  • Burrows Cave artifacts
    Brief Summary: The Burrows Cave collection is a group of objects supposedly found in a Cave in Illinois, named after Russell Burrows, the person who claimed to have found the cave. To this day, Burrows Cave enthusiasts have never demonstrated the existence of the cave. The artifacts contain many obvious hallmarks of modern manufacture, including the so-called "mystic symbol" found on artifacts in the Michigan artifacts collection. This is offered as evidence that the hoaxers deliberately meant to associate these artifacts with the Michigan collection. Some LDS people have fallen prey to those who push these artifacts as genuine. (Click here for full article)
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  • Michigan artifacts
    Brief Summary: The "Michigan Artifacts" or "Michigan relics" are a group of "artifacts" produced by hoaxers in the late 19th century and around the turn of the 20th Century from Michigan. They wanted to produce "proof" of the existence of the ancient civilization known in 19th century lore as the Mound Builders. Many contain scenes from biblical stories. Some LDS members have been misled into believing that the artifacts are genuine. Not surprisingly, advocates of the Michigan artifacts also push the Burrows Cave collection. (Click here for full article)
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  • Newark Decalogue Stone
    Brief Summary: These items, which were presented to the public in 1860, have Hebrew writing on them. Some have used them as evidence for the Book of Mormon, but this is problematic on two grounds: (1) the items may be modern forgeries; and (2) even if authentic, the writing dates to around AD 100-300, which is too late to represent the 600 BC Lehi colony. (Click here for full article)
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Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

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  1. George Potter, "A New Candidate in Arabia for the "Valley of Lemuel"," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 8/1 (1999): 54–63. wiki