Book of Mormon/Geography

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    Book of Mormon geography

This page is a summary or index. More detailed information on this topic is available on the sub-pages below.

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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 FAIR. The articles linked below will describe the various theories and examine the strengths and weaknesses of each.


Matthew Roper, Paul J. Fields, and Atul Nepal,"Joseph Smith, the Times and Seasons, and Central American Ruins", Journal of the Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture, 22/2 (2013)

For over three decades now, computer analyses (using human-written programs, of course) have been used to differentiate the writing styles of authors. Over these decades, the analyses have become more sophisticated and more accurate, though accuracy is still relegated to probability, never certainty. Matt Roper, Paul Fields, and Atul Nepal have applied the latest iteration of computer analyses to the unsigned editorials that appear in 1842 in the Times and Seasons. Did Joseph Smith write the LDS editorial comments on Stephens and Catherwood’s book on Central American ruins? Read and see.
(Click here for full article)


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. We describe the various theories and examine the strengths and weaknesses of each. (Click here for full article)

  • Old World
    Brief Summary: Old World or Arabian, geography - this considers the journey from Jerusalem to Old World Bountiful, where Nephi constructed the ship. (Click here for full article)
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    • Lehi's cave
      Brief Summary: I've heard about a place in the Arabian desert called "Lehi's cave." Does this provide evidence for the Book of Mormon? (Click here for full article)
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  • New World
    Brief Summary: 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)
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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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  • Statements
    Brief Summary: Statements made by Church leaders, members, and publications about Book of Mormon geography issues (Click here for full article)
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    • No revealed geography
      Brief Summary: A collection of statements indicating that there is no revealed geography for the Book of Mormon (these quotes are also in the collections below, by date). (Click here for full article)
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    • Statements by Hugh Nibley
      Brief Summary: LDS scholar Hugh Nibley is sometimes cited out of context by advocates of a geography theory who wish to claim his support for their ideas. They do this to disguise that Nibley argued for Mesoamerican involvement in the Book of Mormon. All of Nibley's statements should be considered if one wishes to know what he thought. (Click here for full article)
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  • Models
    Brief Summary: Book of Mormon geographical models (Click here for full article)
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  • 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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