About 7 years ago, I was introduced to the idea that the Book of Mormon lands didn’t take place in Central America, but rather South America. Lately, I’ve been studying the issue again, and came across a theory that the Book of Mormon didn’t take place in the Americas at all, but rather in Malaysia (known as the Malay Peninsula.) Has anyone heard or studied this hypothesis?
So, I decided to learn more about the different ideas of BOM geography. James Sorensen has a book published in 1991 where he gives a short synopsis of the various (approximately 80) theories. Many are similar, and here are the major categories of theories.
(1) Internal Theories. These are maps which just read the BOM and ignore where they might have occurred, but try to figure out rough distances, and major landmarks that the true map must exhibit. This is a good starting point for “real-world” maps to compare themselves to.
(2) Hemispheric Models. Mormons originally thought that the Book of Mormon peoples covered the entire North and South America. Most serious scholars now doubt this, but many church members probably still believe this today.
(3) Central America Models. Most scholars support this general theory. While there are disagreements about where the “narrow neck of land” exists, such as Panama, Mexico, Guatemala, etc, these theories can be lumped into this category.
(4) South America Models. Joseph Smith is reported to have said that Lehi landed 30 degrees South of the equator, in what would be modern day Chile. There are several theories that try to confirm this, and most people who support this theory believe that most of South America was under water, and that the continent rose up during the major earthquakes mentioned in the BOM during Christ’s crucifixion in the Old World.
(5) The Great Lakes Theory. This proposes that since the golden plates were found in NY, the BOM lands must be nearby, and proposes that the Great Lakes were the Sea East, West, etc.
(6) The Malay Theory. This theory says it would have been much easier for Nephi to travel a 4000 mile journey to the Malay Peninsula than a 16000 mile journey in open seas to the americas. The author notes better language similarities, better DNA evidence, and other evidences to support his ideas, while clearly noting that he is not sure how the plates got to NY.
I’m not trying to promote one theory above another, although some seem more plausible than others, and was wondering what people think of these alternate theories. I know the Central American theory is the most accepted theory, but it does seem to have some flaws that are worth noting. Does anyone have any information pro or con on these other theories? I’m curious what people think, and if anyone has anything to say about this.