Specific works/DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography (DVD)

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A FairMormon Analysis of: DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography (DVD); Introduction to Book of Mormon Evidences (Seminar)
A work by author: The FIRM Foundation

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When attacked by error, truth is better served by silence than by a bad argument.
—Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “Alternate Voices,” Ensign (May 1989): 28.

Within 48 hours the Lord provided the answer to how this was to be accomplished... What a tremendous blessing!... Within 48 hours again the Lord provided another 'miracle'... So the Lord is watching out for this project! ...I asked my dear friend [an emeritus LDS general authority] if he would give my wife and I a special blessing...The only thing I can share from the blessings is that the overall understanding is that this information will go out to "millions" who will be touched by the work, and that this will "embolden" the saints to open their mouths and declare anew the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that millions will find and enter his kingdom! The spirit was overwhelmingly wonderful and we felt so blessed to have that privilege.
—Rod Meldrum, "Update and Request to Serve on the FIRM FOUNDATION Counsel," e-mail dated 9 May 2008 off-site.

FAIR has claimed that I have said or ‘implied’ that I think I have received revelation from God for the church. That is a blatant untruth that they have been propagating without a shred of evidence, because none exists. I have never thought, claimed, nor said that I have ever received revelation for the church. Ever. They intercepted an email where in I said that I felt that I had had some prayers answered, and they have tried to make that into ‘getting revelation directly from God for the church’. That is their FAIRytale. That is the problem with their attacks, they claim things that are absolutely untrue in order to castigate my character.
Comment by The FIRM Foundation Blog — October 4, 2008

It is important to know what the Book of Mormon is not...President George Q. Cannon, First Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “The Book of Mormon is not a geographical primer. It was not written to teach geographical truths. What is told us of the situation of the various lands or cities … is usually simply an incidental remark connected with the doctrinal or historical portions of the work.”
—James E. Faust, “First Presidency Message: The Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Jan 2004, 2–6

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A response to claims made in the DVD and associated seminar presentations

All of us make assumptions and have beliefs that are not necessarily true. As we learn more, we make adjustments to our beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs are heavily influenced by a particular book, website, DVD, or experience in our life. Depending on what foundational experiences we have, we may come to differing conclusions and opinions. This is a normal part of the learning process, and thus within the Church we find a variety of opinions on several issues. The Church has clearly identified some areas where there is no revealed doctrine. For example, there is no revealed doctrine on the age of the earth, the role of evolution, or the location of Book of Mormon geography. Church members, and even General Authorities, are free to express a variety of divergent opinions regarding these issues.

Members of FAIR don't mind there being a healthy debate on any of those issues as we understand that there is no revealed doctrine. We are free to all disagree. The danger comes when an individual starts proclaiming the words of Joseph Smith in one of these areas and, in spite of the Church's claims to the contrary, claims it is revealed doctrine. We also object when there are implications made that scholars who are affiliated with the Church and help write our Sunday School manuals are leading the Church astray.

With this in mind, we have focused a lot of attention on the writings, presentation, and DVD of one public speaker and fireside presenter who seems to have taken this position. Many have asked us why we single him out. It is not for his beliefs on Book of Mormon geography, rather, it is for the implication that the Church and its leadership may have been led astray. We find that a dangerous position that must receive a vigorous response.

The DVD "DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography" and its associated seminar series make a number of disturbing claims. In order to "prove" what is referred to as the Heartland model of Book of Mormon geography, the audience is first instructed on how to determine truth, and even how to interpret specific words contained in the scriptures. The audience is also presented with examples which are designed to lead the audience to believe that anyone that does not accept this geographical model is "discounting and disdaining" the words of Joseph Smith. Such an approach is insulting to faithful scholars and members who spend a significant amount of time and effort defending Joseph Smith against his detractors. The following sections provide an overview of some of the more egregious of these claims.

Revisions to the DVD

  • It should be noted that the revised DVD video includes categorical statements that there is no official Church position on Book of Mormon geography, and has dropped any statements stating or implying that revelation backs the position of the presenter. "There is an explicit statement by Emeritus General Authority Elder Hartman Rector at the beginning of the DVD, that there is no official Church position on Book of Mormon Geography." [1]
  • On the back of the cellophane DVD wrapper of the revised DVD is a sticky label imprinted with the following notice:

"Correction Notice: A quote from President Hinckley used in the presentation is used incorrectly and will be removed from the next version of the DVD. It was incorrectly understood that the Prophet was speaking of all people who dismiss Joseph Smith, including LDS scholars; however it has been brought to my attention that President Hinckley spoke specifically of non-members and did not specifically mention scholars. As stated in the presentation, if there are mistakes, they will be corrected."

  • In an introductory presentation attended by several FAIR members in March 2009 (well after the revision of the DVD), the presenter was still mentioning "LDS scholars discounting or disdaining" Joseph Smith.

Differences between seminar and DVD

It should be noted that some claims are unique to the introductory seminar, and are not made in the DVD. Other remarks and claims are also made in e-mails or in on-line forums. These are indicated where appropriate.

Specific geographical claims related to the Heartland model

The Heartland model makes a number of claims that contradict the Book of Mormon itself. For a discussion and response to specific geographical claims related to the Heartland model, see the main article:

Main article: Heartland model

Other claims


  1. [note] Steven Danderson, A look at Meldrum’s revised DVD…. (March 31, 2009)

Further reading

Heartland (Meldrum) Geography claims

FairMormon Answers articles

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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A FAIR Analysis of Critical Works

FairMormon web site

Book of Mormon geography FAIR links

Book of Mormon geography

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