Testing Book of Mormon Geography Theories

I’ve posted previously on the various BoM geography theories, and I have to admit, it is one of my favorite topics.  Very few Mormons realize how diverse some of the various theories are.  Mormon Times recently ran an article on the various theories, and gave some criteria for evaluating them properly.

So, which of these theories sounds most plausible to you?  I’ve studied quite a few, and am aware of both strengths and weaknesses of many of the theories.  I’d love to hear what you think.


4 comments on “Testing Book of Mormon Geography Theories

  1. You sent this link before. It is interesting.

  2. 1908, B. H. Roberts wrote New Witness for God, Vol 3:
    “…much found in this treatise of the Book of Mormon relative to the Nephites being in South America— written under the impression that the passage . . . was, as is there set forth, a revelation— will have to be modified.”

    “Now, if no more evidence can be found to establish this passage in Richards and Little’s Compendium as a “Revelation to Joseph the Seer,” than the fact that it is found in the hand writing of Frederick G. Williams, and on the same sheet of paper with the body of the revelation about John, the evidence of its being a “revelation to Joseph, the Seer,” rests on a very unsatisfactory basis”.

    B. H. Roberts requested a conference with the General Authorities to discuss how the Church would respond to attacks on the Book of Mormon.

    September 1933
    B. H. Roberts died.

    Jesse A. Washburn published From Babel to Cumorah and hinted that the last great battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place near the lands of their early settlements, with the assumption that this was in Central America. In response to this book, Joseph Fielding Smith published:

    The Church News, September 10, (by Joseph Fielding Smith)
    “We cannot say that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess the territory of the United States and that the Hill Cumorah is in Central America. Neither can we say that the great struggle which resulted in the destruction of the Nephites took place in Central America…From all the evidence in the Book of Mormon, augmented by the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, these final battles took place in the territory known as the United States and in the neighborhood of the Great Lakes and hills of western New York. And here Moroni found the resting place for the sacred instruments that were committed to his care”.

    Washburn published An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geography. He was now convinced that the hill Cumorah in the text of the Book of Mormon was in fact located in Central America.

    Thomas S. Ferguson made his first trip to Mexico. Ferguson requested BYU to purchase the Mayan collection that had belonged to Wiiliam E. Gates. Also Wells Jakeman (friend of Ferguson) became a faculty member at BYU in the department of Archaeology. He was a Professor of Ancient History. Jackman evaluated the Gates collection and also recommended it be purchased, which it was.

    Thomas S. Ferguson published Cumorah – Where? He followed after Washburn, that the hill Cumorah was in Central America.

    BYU sponsored the first field trip to Mexico. Thomas Ferguson, Wells Jakeman, and Glenn Harmon (a lawyer) participated.

    Ferguson published Ancient America and the Book of Mormon

    Ferguson established the New World Archaeological Foundation (First incorporated in the State of California)

    Letter sent to Thomas Ferguson from Joseph Anderson, Secretary to the First Presidency, informing him that they did not object to the non-profit California incorporation. It also stated that the First Presidency felt that there may not be any discovery to establish the historical value of the Book of Mormon.

    $15,000 was contributed by the First Presidency to finish the year’s work. John Sorenson went on his first expedition, with Ferguson.

    Doctrines of Salvation, Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, Compiled by Bruce R. McConkie was first published, which strongly disputed the two Cumorah theory that was being promoted by these authors.

    $250,000 was contributed by the First Presidency to finance the next five years.

    Ferguson published One Fold and One Shepard

    Fletcher B. Hammond (an attorney) published Geography of the Book of Mormon. He also, like the others, held the view that Cumorah of the final battle was in fact in Central America.

    Mark E. Peterson and Marion G. Romney visited the work in Mexico. Both spoke in conference reports and firesides for years after about the United States being the land of promise, as opposed to the Meso America theory and two Cumorahs.

    The New World Archaeology Foundation became attached to and administered under BYU.

    Thomas Ferguson wrote his first letter to the Tanners (anti-Mormon publishers).

    Thomas Ferguson met with the Tanners. He continued to write them letters through 1979.

    BYU shifted the focus of research from ancient to the Spanish period through 1821.

    Deseret News, July 29, 1978, Church News Section, p.16
    “Some authors have felt ‘called upon’ to inform the world about Book of Mormon geography and have published writings giving their views. These books, however, are strictly private works and represent only their personal speculations”.

    John W. Welch (attorney) established the Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (FARMS) in California.

    Welch became a faculty member at BYU and FARMS was moved from California.

    FARMS joined with Deseret Book to publish the collected works of Hugh Nibley.

    John Sorenson published An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon.

    FARMS became part of BYU, combining with the Center for the Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts, and the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative. The three combined were renamed to the Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts.

    The Institute for the Study and Preservation of Ancient Religious Texts was renamed to the Neal A. Maxwell Institute

  3. Thanks for the interesting timeline. I don’t understand the 1908 reference to BH Roberts. What is “this passage in Richards and Little’s Compendium”?

    I don’t know if you are familiar with the Malay Theory. Basically, it says the BoM lands are on the Malay Peninsula (part of Malaysia.) The pros are that it seem to fit the Book of Mormon much better, including DNA, elephants, silks, narrow neck of land is north-south, etc. The cons are that the author has no idea how the plates got to NY. (He says Sorenson doesn’t know how the plates got there from Central America either.) I know it sounds crazy, but perhaps it is just as crazy as Galileo saying that the sun (not earth) was center of the universe.

    I agree that the Central/South American theories have some big problems that are quite problematic.

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