A Radically Different Book of Mormon Geography Theory

In the movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Nazi’s are looking for the Lost Ark of the Covenant.  They have an image of a map burned into the hand of a Nazi scientist, so they think they know where the Ark is.  However, there is a critical piece of information missing which is found on the other side of the medallion, which only Indiana Jones has.  Indiana exclaims, “They’re digging in the wrong place!”

Book of Mormon geography is one of my favorite topics, and it’s been a while since I talked about it.  Wouldn’t it be cool to find some archaeological evidence?  There are over 100 theories concerning Book of Mormon geography.  Since they can’t all be correct, obviously, some scientists are digging in the wrong place.  Let’s review some of the theories again.

In 1991, John Sorensen of BYU, the “dean” of Book of Mormon geography, created a book called “The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book“.  (It is hard to find because it has no ISBN #, but can be purchased at the BYU Bookstore as well as some bookstores specializing on obscure Mormon books.)  I reviewed the theories.  I grouped them into basic categories, and discovered a 7th category when Last Lemming posted a comment at my blog about an African theory.  Here they are:

(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.  Any scholar should probably start here first.

(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. The bulk of “mormon approved” 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.  This is the theory that is most accepted by Mormon Scholars.

(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 group of theories 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 Theories. 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.  This theory has recently received a boost from people like Rodney Meldrum, and is making some inroads into Mormon thought.

The book is now close to 20 years old.  Since it was published, a flood of new theories have been created.  The following 2 theories are some of the most radical.

(6) The African Theory by Embaye Melekin.  The link to this theory on my blog no longer works, but Michael Ash wrote a review of this theory in 2001.  Melekin claims that his book titled, “Manifestations mysteries revealed,” has proven “beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Book of Mormon is an African book and about Africans. . . . My book will change the church and the belief of the Mormons drastically.” Well Melekin didn’t change Ash’s opinion, and I don’t give this theory much credence.

(7) 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.

One need only look Wikipedia to see the common problems with all the American theories.  (Important note-look at the top of the article-there are many messages at the top of the article stating that the findings in the entry are highly disputed, so use that information as you will.)  Here’s a brief listing of problems with theories 2-5.  Archaeological evidence has failed to produce many of the following animals and plants existed during the Book of Mormon period:

  • Horses
  • Elephants
  • Cattle and cows
  • Sheep
  • Goats
  • Swine
  • Barley and wheat

Additionally, Native Americans were much more primitive than is mentioned in the Book of Mormon-there were no chariots, or even wheeled vehicles in the Americas, and iron was not used for weapons.  Iron ore has been discovered in Peru, but its purpose was primarily for body paint.  Here are some other problems:

  • Chariots or wheeled vehicles
  • Steel and iron
  • Metal swords, which had “rusted”
  • Cimiters
  • System of exchange based on measures of precious metals
  • Silk
  • Knowledge of Hebrew and Egyptian languages

DNA seems to be another problem.  I did a post last July on a book I read called “DNA and Tradition:  The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews“, by Rabbi Yaakov Kleiman.  Jewish DNA has been a relatively important topic in the scientific community, and a gene has been discovered, called the Cohen gene which seems to date back to the time of Aaron and Moses.  This Cohen gene theoretically represents the Levite tribe, of which Moses and Aaron were a part of.  Medically, the Cohen gene has been linked to neurological problems.  In my talk with Ann (What’s the difference between Arabs and Persians?), she acknowledged that Jews do carry some unique genetic traits.

So, lest anyone think I’m advocating the position that the Book of Mormon is archaeologically unsound, let’s look at the Bible for a minute. I did a post which tries to show the good and bad news of Biblical Archaeology.  There is no evidence that Jews existed prior to about 700 BC.  That means that there is no archaeological evidence of Moses, Saul, Joseph, Adam, Eve, Job, Abraham, Noah, and everyone who pre-dates 700 BC.  Some scholars go so far as to claim that the Exodus never happened.  There is an inscription about David in the Tel Dan stele, which seems to indicate that a King David may have existed, but scholars are split as to the veracity of this claim.  There is even a lack of contemporary evidence that Christ existed, though the writings after his crucifixion certainly add a significant amount of credible evidence that Christ probably existed.  Either way, science will never be able to prove he was resurrected, which is a fundamental tenet of all Christianity.

So my point is that the Bible and the Book of Mormon’s primary value are in their religious and spiritual validity, not necessarily scientific validity.  Certainly the Bible has more archaeological evidence than the Book of Mormon, but there are many archaeological questions for both books.

Does lack of evidence prove these people did not exist?  No, we are only a discovery away from proving the skeptics wrong.  Can a spiritual person still be a scientist?  Yes, according to Maimonides, a rabbi who wrote 700 years ago.  A quote from DNA and Tradition:  The Genetic Link to the Ancient Hebrews says,

“His writings directed the person of faith to realize that there is much more hidden than revealed, both in the traditional Biblical writings and also in the natural world.  Our challenge is to continually study and investigate both realms, with the realization that apparent conflicts are merely artifacts of temporary incomplete understanding in one or both realms.  This avoidance of intellectual pride, allows the person of traditional religious faith to work comfortably within the framework of rigorous scientific hypothesis and empiricism.  This is also in keeping with the rationalist approach in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed.”

So, what if the Book of Mormon is true, but like the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark, we’re “digging in the wrong place?”  I decided to look at one of the radically different geography theories-the Malay theory by Ralph Olsen.  I discovered it in the footnotes of the Wikipedia article on Archaeology and the Book of Mormon.  He even has his own section here.  The footnotes list a link to a Sunstone article he did.  (You must open the attachment with the free Adobe Reader.)

In the Sunstone article, he lists his mailing address, so I wrote him a letter.  Ralph Olsen is a retired chemistry professor at Montana State University, with research interests in plants, soils, and microbes.  I asked him why he picked Malay as a possible Book of Mormon location, and he cited several reasons:

(1)    The peninsula is North-south, unlike Sorenson’s east-west orientation

(2)    The problems with animals go away.  Elephants, sheep, horses, etc. all date to the proper time period

(3)    The civilization dates to the proper time period, and has had chariots, iron, silk, etc

(4)    There was a dark-skinned people pre-existing on the peninsula.  If they intermarried with the Lamanites, (while the Nephites did not intermarry) that would explain the “dark and loathsome” comment in the Book of Mormon

(5)    The oceanic travel makes more sense

(6) Alma 63: 5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an aexceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land bBountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the cnarrow neck which led into the land northward.

a.       Traditional Mormon scholars seem to support the idea that Hagoth travelled eastward and populated the Pacific Islands (such as Hawaii, Tonga, etc),

b.      Scholarly consensus indicates that Native Americans came from Asia, hopped across the Pacific Islands (such as Hawaii, Tonga, etc), before arriving in the Americas.  Olsen’s theory seems to be backed up by more scientists

(7)    DNA evidence seems to be better.  I blogged previously about the 12 Tribes of Israel.  As we know from the Book of Mormon, Nephi and Lehi were from the tribe of Manasseh.  Unrelated to this theory, a Jewish documentary filmmaker named Simcha Jacobovici has made the claim that the tribe of Manasseh may be located in the Malay Peninsula in his film “Quest for the Lost Tribes”, which I blogged about previously.

a.       While not endorsing the Malay Theory, Simon Southerton commented on my blog that “I’m not aware of any DNA evidence from South East Asia linking populations there with the Middle East. South East Asia has been heavily populated for tens of thousands of years, with large civilizations. It is possible that Jewish sailors colonized parts of Asia though.”

I know Southerton gets a lot of flak from FARMS and FAIR for his DNA studies.  I know Rodney Meldrum is making some claims that Cohen DNA has been found in the Americas.  However, Southerton says that Meldrum’s work is based on old genetic tests, and is no longer valid.  Southerton’s rebuttal is found here.

Unrelated to this theory, a Jewish documentary filmmaker named Simcha Jacobovici has made the claim that the tribe of Manasseh may be located in the Malay Peninsula in his film “Quest for the Lost Tribes”, which I blogged about previously.  Jacobovici mentions that when Babylon invaded Israel and scattered them in 600 BC, that some of the tribes were taken across land to Malay.  This could seemingly explain how the Mulekites got there, and why the Nephites (who travelled by boat) couldn’t understand them.

There is also a legend in Malay stating that some shipwrecked Jewish people landed there, possibly indicating the Nephites landing there. As we know from the Book of Mormon, Nephi and Lehi were from the tribe of Manasseh.  Jacobovici states in his film that some of the local citizens in Malay claim to be from the Tribe of Manasseh.

Olsen has written a short book called “A More Promising Land of Promise”, which is available for purchase on his own website.  He also sent me a much longer, unpublished manuscript, which goes into further detail, than his published book.  He encourages people to critique his work, so if you have problems with his theories, be kind, but please express them.  My biggest problems with the theory are:

(1)    How did the plates get to New York?  Olsen admits that he doesn’t know-possibly a miracle?  But he also points out that Sorensen doesn’t adequately explain how the 200 lb plates moved from Guatemala 3000 miles north to NY without a wheeled vehicle.

(2)    If the Book of Mormon lands are in Asia, then Joseph’s account that the Book of Mormon contains a record of the inhabitants of the American continent, then Malay is clearly not.  Joseph Smith History 1:34 “[Moroni] said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.”

a.       Olsen’s argument emphasizes it differently, instead emphasizing “and the source from whence they sprang.” He says the Source is the Malay Peninsula, and that is how to overcome this apparent discrepancy. I can see his point, but I know that is not a traditional understanding of that scripture, and I’m not sure I buy it.

So, what do you think?  Do you have any other major problems with the theory?  Is there anything you like about the theory?


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150 comments on “A Radically Different Book of Mormon Geography Theory

  1. Sxark,

    There are 2 pages of comments. Click page 1 to review the issue of how Ralph Olsen deals with Moroni’s words. I’ve hashed it out already, and don’t feel the need to do it again.

    I agree with Bishop Rick: Quetzalcottal is by no means a slam dunk for Mormons, or many more people would join the church based on Quetz…

  2. BR:

    “It is a perfect example of being biased towards a claim and looking for evidence to support it, not finding any and adapting what was actually found to fit the model.”

    Absolutely true, but of course we do this in the sciences all the time — and it’s perfectly legit as long as you are transparent with your data, do not overstate what the evidence actually shows, and keep the focus on the evidence rather than the motives of the supporters and the critics.

    Any “school” of science seldom admits it’s wrong; the research funding just dries up, and the advocates die or move on to other ideas.

  3. Bishop Rick:

    I would not be so dismissive of older stars, for it is known that there are billions of years of difference from our sun and their numbers are just staggering to the point, that if you were conservative, you should at least go with 51% / 49% in favor of an advanced civilization somewhere.

    Of course, once you make that great leap – then everything else [slowly] starts to fall in place.

    BH: & Bishop Rick:

    I may have overstated Quetzalcoatl a bit. But I think you will agree that historians and philosophers are still quibbling over some of his reported amazing attributes. And it would be intelectually unwise to dismiss him outright.

  4. Firetag:

    You appear to know your stuff about science – more than I do. What do you think about the recent oval shaped picture of the universe, that shows heat to be evenly distributed thruout?

    I have heard it said, that the only way this could be possible is if matter was traveling faster than the speed of light after the big bang.

    Which, if true, could show an attribute of the leaders of the advanced civ that we only assume to be true.

    The bottom line is that I believe the ultimate source of the BofM comes from the leaders of the advanced civ – who are so powerfull, that they may be irritated with those of us that fail to follow the guidlines in finding truth.

    Although, the scientific method has been accepted as one source but not the only source for finding truth.

  5. Sxark:

    Well, that sounds sort of like something that is true. The Big Bang doesn’t involve matter moving through space. It involves changes in the size of a region of spave — which is allowed in General Relativity and shows how different a view of reality Einstein actually brought to us.

    While there is a “speed limit” about how fast matter can move through space, there is NO speed limit on how fast space itself can grow or shrink.

    That’s really all I can say since we are so, so, so off-topic.

  6. Firetag:

    Do you think that the leaders of an advanced civ, who claim to have contacted individuals on the earth and gave or are still giving guidlines to finding truth, are so powerfull, beyond our comphrension, that they may be personnaly offended if we do not use these guidlines in the prescibed manner when exploring such subjects like trying to find the geographical locations of the BofM?

  7. Firetag:

    It makes no sense to separate space and matter on this point, for the premise is that space and matter must have traveled faster than the speed of light in order for heat to be so uniform thru out the universe.

    This only appears to be off topic. And may have a direct connection with that advanced civ somewhere.

  8. @Sxark
    No Sxark, I do not. Would you be personally offended by the actions of an ant?

  9. @Sxark
    The actual premise is that space grows at a rate that makes matter separate from nearby matter faster than the speed of light, and IS NOT A PROBLEM THAT REQUIRES ANY ADVANCED CIVILIZATION AT ALL. It is, in fact, an answer to the question of how temperatures can be so similar across the visible universe.

    That really is all I’ll say on the subject.

  10. Firetag:

    An ant – that is made in the image of the leader of the advanced civ. probably has less of a choice of how to conduct itself than we do.

    I was only pointing out that it appears that matter may travel faster than light. I did not indicate that an advanced civ. is required for this to occur – only that it [matter traveling faster than light] probably did occur with or without the assistance of the advanced civ. And if this is the case, the advanced civ. most likely has this capability.

    However, it has been said by some, that the advanced civ. did have a hand in this and you may ask: How could the advanced civ. exist outside of our little big bang?

    It has been said by others, that the leaders of the advanced civ. told them, [I’ll paraphrase – hoping not to offend the leaders] that there allways were big bangs and there will not be an end to big bangs. Note the plural – the advanced civ. is not alone.

    What power is this? And to think – it is said, that we are created in the image of this leader.

  11. It is possible for matter to travel faster than the speed of light, but it depends on your frame of reference. If I am traveling at 50 miles per hour in a vehicle, and throw a ball from the back seat to the windshield at 25 miles per hour, the ball is actually traveling much faster than 50 miles per hour relative to the road.

    Therefore, if matter obeys the speed limit and merely approaches the speed of light within the bounds of the universe, but the universe is also expanding at a speed that approaches the speed of light, voila.

  12. Multiple Big Bangs makes perfect sense in a multi-verse that exhibits random collisions, shearing of parts of the 2 colliding universes that combine to form a new universe…as a result of that big bang.

  13. It is thought by some that one such new universe is shaped like the Malay peninsula.
    (trying to bring it back)

  14. Bishop Rick:

    See response to you #50 p. 2

    Bring back the Malay peninsula without the assistance of members of the advanced civ? – Is like walking around in a circle, making an atheistic hole deeper and deeper.

    How can one study the BofM without the assistance of the organization that sprang from it?

  15. Ok, I’m going to start a new science/religion post (by special request.) If we had a map from New York to Los Angeles, we’re in South America by now…. 🙂

  16. […] the conversation veered off the road on my Malay post, going into the space-time continuum.  So, since I like to compartmentalize things, I thought […]

  17. The other day I searched for the few verses that mention the “narrow neck of land” to see if there is anything that we missed so far. And, indeed, after comparing the verses I am quite sure I found a new geographical hint:
    Alma 22:32 says: “and now, it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey for a nephite, from the east to the west sea”; and in Helaman 4:7 ” from the west sea, even to the east; it being a day journey for a nephite. If it takes a day to travel from west to east, but it takes a day and a half to travel from east to west, the reason may be that the terrain is not even along the narrow neck of land. It seems that it is easier to travel toward the East. It is as if the west side was uphill (mountains), while the east side is downhill (plains), along the shortest road. Also, Ether 10:20 says: “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land.” The city may be gone, but I don’t think the landscape changed much. Earthquakes are quite destructive, but I don’t think the land changed much geographically from those times to today. This uphill (west side) / downhill (east side) characteristic may be something to take into consideration in looking for a possible location of the narrow neck of land, anywhere in the world.
    I found the different theories interesting (Meso, Malay), but so far I don’t favor any in particular as there is not enough information to call it a fact. I found also that another possible location could be Ceylon (today Sri Lanka). It is just southeast of the Arabian Sea (north part of the Indian Ocean) and if the Lehites travelled along the coast, they could not have missed it. By looking at Google Earth one see a narrow bridge of islands between Sri Lanka and India. That bridge is called Rama’s Bridge! (Rama — Ramah???) Or also “Adam’s bridge”. Quote from Wikipedia: “Adam’s Bridge, also known as Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu is a chain of limestone shoals, between the islands of Rameswaram, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar, near northwestern Sri Lanka. Geological evidence indicates that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The bridge is 30 miles (48 km) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (southwest) from the Palk Strait (northeast). Some of the sandbanks are dry and the sea in the area is very shallow, being only 3 ft to 30 ft (1 m to 10 m) deep in places, which hinders navigation. It was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms deepened the channel: temple records seem to say that Rama’s Bridge was complete above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480 CE. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam%27s_Bridge). There is also a very nice aerial picture of the bridge.
    I know this is just a theory, but I don’t find it too impossible. It could explain Alma 63:5 “5 And it came to pass that Hagoth, built him an exceedingly large ship, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.” If they were not allowed to cross the neck of land to go to the land northward, they could have sailed west to reach the land northward (looking at a map of Ceylon and southern India would give the idea). Of course, there may be many other explanations. For example, if they always travelled eastward, why going westward this time? To return to Jerusalem maybe? All of this is just speculation from my part (but I like to speculate because it gives new ideas and sometimes lead to discoveries). I would like to hear back comments on this. Some days ago I was searching the web for comments on Book of Mormon locations / geography, and found your site. I thoroughly enjoyed ready the 300+ comments on the Malay theory. I wanted to be sure I would not comment on something someone else already mentioned, so I waited to get to the last comment — to find out that the blog was closed to new comments months ago! Even if I am late, I thought you might be interested in my opinion.

  18. Thanks for taking time to read all 300 comments! It was a fun post.

    So it sounds like you’ve got an interesting theory there. Keep working on it. The narrow neck of land is just one piece of the puzzle. Now if you can find King Noah’s palace, or the sword Ammon used to chop off the arms of the sheep thieves, you might be on to something! 🙂

    Since your comment was a duplicate on my “Future posts”, I decided to delete it since it is more appropriate here. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you continue to enjoy the articles!

  19. Hi, Heretic!
    This one of my favorite subjects as well. I am not sure if you came across my website but I would like to share another theory with you. And I believe I have the best model (of course like everyone else) that best explains all the questions presented. I am not a great writer nor a professional writer like the rest but I hope I explained my theory well enough. My explanations are both in posts and in comments so I hope you have the time to go through everything. The best way would be to look at the maps I created. And no I don’t buy into the DNA evidence nor the Malay theory. That would go against what the prophets have taught that this is the lands of the Book of Mormon. You have 2000 years of families mixing with foreigners to have any substantial DNA proof. My family name is Jewish but my father’s side is Lithuanian/Russian and Roman Catholic. Does this mean I have Jewish DNA in me? Some long time ago a Jewish family emigrated into Lithuania and integrated with the local peoples with the next generations slowly becoming Catholic and Lithuanian. My mother’s side is a mix of several European countries so I doubt that I will find any Jewish blood in me. Family histories and traditions is where you find your roots. The only way, I believe, DNA would work is if you have a very close community with very little outside contacts. We don’t know the whole history of the New World so how do we know for sure that the Native Americans did not have any contact with Jewish settlers? One more thing. I am not sure if this has been posted yet but there are Hebrew inscriptions found in New Mexico. http://www.mhccorp.com/archaeology/decalogue-introduction.html http://www.econ.ohio-state.edu/jhm/arch/loslunas.html These are just my thoughts.

  20. One more thing. All this talk about it takes a Nephite a day to travel across the narrow neck of land seems the main focus on Book of Mormon geography. One of the main things I learned is that the Nephites had horses and chariots and the Lamanites did not, according to the Book of Mormon. So, I am assuming that everyone believes that the Nephites walked across the narrow neck and other places. Am I wrong? Why walk when you have horses and chariots which would take you a lot further and you can travel longer. I still believe Zarahemla is in Central America but not only because of the narrow neck of land and other geographical locations. Just another thought.

  21. Randy, thanks for stopping by. I did a VERY brief tour of your blog and looked at a couple maps. It appears you are thinking more along the lines of a Hemispheric Model. I haven’t seen anyone espouse that type of theory, so it looks interesting.

    As I’m sure you’re well aware, most BoM geographers believe a more limited geography model makes sense. Have you read Sorenson? He makes a pretty solid case that the travel distances in the Book of Mormon are much smaller than your maps seem to indicate.

    I’m actually preparing a post on the Baja Peninsula in the coming weeks–I’ll have to check our yours in more detail after that. Do you have any papers that describe your theory in more detail, or should I just review your blog?

  22. No papers. Just review my blog. My theory is not based on travel but on migrations mentioned in the Book of Mormon and where the Nephites settled for a time. I believe that some of the books were written in different areas and in different times. The Nephites were pushed north by the Lamanites during the 1000 years of Nephite history. I found a pattern that I worked with. A migration happened every 3 books, starting with Lehi and ending with the brother of Jared. I would like some help developing a paper on this theory. My theory combines the limited models and the hemispheric models using migrations to tie them together. You can read more on my blog when you have time.

  23. randy, have you read anything by John Sorenson? whether you accept his theory or not, I think he makes a very solid case for a limited geography model.

    perhaps you’ve addressed why you think your relative distances make more sense than Sorenson’s calculations. but I think you need some pretty good explanations to convince anyone that a hemispheric model makes sense. remember that no chariot wheels have been discovered in the americas. has your theory taken that into account?

  24. It doesn’t matter whether there were chariot wheels discovered or not. I still have a hard time believing that 1000 years of history would be contained in such a small area. And I believe that chariot wheels have been found, if you believe this article. I used to have this issue. It mentioned gold plated books and chariots that were found in caves in Ecuador. http://www.ancientamerican.com/issue25.htm Sorenson and others can calculate all they want on distances and populations but I still believe I am on the right path. In two places the Book of Mormon people were divided into Nephites and Lamanites. One meaning of a Nephite means a member of the Church of Christ. Lamanite is one who fought against the Church. I don’t believe that every single native in the Americas are descendants of Lehi. There is too much evidence to suggest that there were others at that time. It took only a Prophet to convert a whole nation, meaning Mosiah and the king of Zarahemla. One more thing. Why would Mormon mention migrations if they didn’t mean anything? Why waste the space on useless information? And remember, too, that the Book of Mormon is only a condensed version of the Nephite history. I believe I have expanded their history a little bit. But of course I could be way off base in the face of all these researchers and experts in Book of Mormon geography.

  25. Randy, I’ll check your website out sometime. However, I have to tell you that “I believe” isn’t nearly as good as “facts show….”

  26. I hope you won’t be disappointed. This is more of an interpretation of discoveries made than actual proof or facts. If I could find any archaeological discoveries to illustrate my ideas I would post them. Right now I just have the Book of Mormon and other sources of information to prove my point. Anyway, thanks for your interest.

  27. I am LDS in Thailand and found this idea worthy of a few hours of research. I did study the maps and find support for the Mala theory. In Burma you can find a city with the name Teincun (Teancum?). It is not far north of the modern-day city of Manoron (Moron?) and Maw hill (Ramah?) in the Lenya hills of Burma. You can see all these in Google maps.

    But perhaps the most interesting parallels are with the local tribes that inhabit these hills. The Karen people claim that there was once a family of seven brothers in their land. This family later divided into three tribes which were led by three brothers. The older two brothers with darker skin represent the Karen people and the Burmese people respectively. The younger brother was somehow white.

    All seven brothers were given a golden book of life containing the wisdom of the God Y’wa. The older brothers were preoccupied with mundane affairs and neglected the books, so the pale-skinned younger brother took the last golden book and sailed off to the West. The Karen people still wait for their fair-skinned younger brother to bring back the golden book.

    Many prophet cults such as the Lehkai based on these legends still thrive in these hills, and still await the return of the white brother and the golden book from the West. It is said that this event will restore prosperity and freedom to their land and will lead to the return of their savior Y’wa.

    I would say that these parallels merit consideration, especially when considering that the Mala Theory also resolves all Book of Mormon anachronisms (i.e. elephants, horses, chariots, metallurgy etc.) as well as DNA, linguistic and geographical inconsistencies. If all this was found anywhere in the Americas there would surely be interest. So why would we ignore it just because its all found in Burma?

  28. Bleh Htoo, Thanks for stopping by. I would be interested to know if the similarity of these words are due to coincidence, or if there are true language connections.

  29. The names I mentioned are the same ones presented in Dr. Olson’s Mala theory. I only added Teincun which I found on Google Maps at the same point Dr. Olson supposed Teancum would be.

    I am not a linguist, so I can’t provide much insight into your question. However, the names I mentioned (Teincun/Teancum, Manoron/Moron) would be Jaredite, a language we don’t know much about. So it would be difficult to find linguistic connections.

    Similar place names would be just a curious way to support the more evident cultural and geographical relationships.

  30. But most convincing in my mind is that the Malay Peninsula seems much more logistically probable. Its hard to understand how three different groups in time (Jaredite, Mulekites and Lehites) could all complete near impossible trans-oceanic journeys only to land at precisely the same point.

    If all three of those groups could find the same landing so easily without maps etc. then the answer should be much more evident to us. We should be looking for a more obvious solution, a location that would have been easily found by all three groups.

  31. I have talked to Dr Olsen and told him that I think it would help his theory to find a linguist to make a stronger tie about place names. But I’m glad to hear you find the place names compelling.

    It is possible that the Mulekites did not come to the Malay Peninsula by boat. I did a post on the Lost 10 tribes (click here to read it). There’s a really interesting video by a Jewish fellow named Simcha Jacobovici called Quest for the Lost Tribes. Simcha believes he has found the Tribe of Manasseh in Burma. He believes the Assyrians/Babylonians purposely moved the Tribe of Manasseh to Burma. If DNA evidence supports this claim, I think it would be a very interesting piece of independent evidence for Dr. Olsen.

    I think you might also enjoy this post I did on the Lemba Tribe of Africa. They have been able to trace their DNA back to Jewish roots.

    There are some things I really like about this Malay theory.

  32. Personally, I think the Malay theory is a perfect illustration of how easy it is to retrofit the BoM into different geographic locations. But, as has been pointed out in this discussion, all theories display problems with deep scrutiny. I do admit, however, that these theories are interesting.

  33. […] I guess the first striking feature to me about this theory is the fact that the Peninsula is much more of a north-south orientation than Sorenson’s MesoAmerican theory.  Another strength of Baja is that the “narrow neck of land” is actually narrow–Sorenson’s narrow neck isn’t nearly as narrow.  Another bonus is the fact that the Baja Peninsula is much closer to the generally accepted Book of Mormon locations than say the Malay Theory. […]

  34. I hate to nitpick, but I wish that Americans would realise that the Middle East has always been part of Asia. In fact, “Asia” originally referred to the main part of Turkey, aka Asia Minor. Israel is very much part of Asia (only just though).

    We need to distinguish between East Asians (Orientals, Mongoloids) and West Asians (Semites, Iranians, Kurds etc)

  35. As a Malay from Malaysia, I found this article and its comments quite interesting. I have read a few theories on the possible BOM’s geographic locations and really believe that the Malay Peninsula fits best. I have read one of Prof Olsen’s works and feel that what he wrote makes sense and logical based on our own findings – origins of the Malays which dates back to the days of Abraham and his third wife, Keturah..

  36. Sabri, welcome! I am curious about the place names in Ralph’s theory. Do you think they share language similarities with the Book of Mormon (for example, Hill Maw is Hill Cumorah)?

  37. @Sabri
    do we have such history?,,,,,, I am puzzled reading this topic…. @_@…. java people consider too hah?

  38. For thousands of years, the Middle East, Africa, America, Europe and Asia had been a mixed domain of civilizations blending cultures and beliefs among the people on Earth.

    The mixture is perfectly represented by India and Hinduism which are collecting wisdoms and religious values from all over the world which seafarers are coming from — such as Phoenicians, Egyptians and Indonesians who all together formulated the-so-called now subcontinental India and as the influential Aryans also took their parts routing from Asian soils.

    Proof that Hinduism is a set of collective wisdoms instead of invented religion is obvious in the fact that no one ever founded Hinduism, compared to Sanatan Dharma, believed as a set of laws given by God since the very beginning of the world.

    One might agree that all eternal cults must be called Islam, Shalom, Selem, Syahom or Salam coming from The One God or Sang Hyang Widi Wasa (All in One God), or Eli — compared to Yahweh or Jehova being influenced by the idea of Hindu’s Syiwa and Wisnu deities, or compared to similarities found in Jesus or Jeshua (Joshua) with Syiwa or Christ with Krishna.

    Ibrahim, Abraham or Brahma might not be the creator of monotheistic beliefs, but he is the one who initially declared the islamic terminology ‘SLM’ which is used today by Mohammedans (Islam), Jews (Shalom) and Christians (Syalom or Salem) under guidance of a mysterious spirtual guru namely Melchizedek (Maliku’s Sidik) who emerged as king of a country called Selem.

    Or what relates the Indians with Indonesia’s Bali Island in ‘Baliyatra’ tradition, which comes first?. Or, another question such as do Phoenicians really speak ancient Indonesian language as found in ‘Mata Ki Te Rangi’ (Eyes Looking at the Sky) of the Easter Island sculptures in the Pacific?

    Do you think that Hebrew mystical Kabalah is more superior to Javanese Kejawen’s ‘kebal’ (resistant) or otherwise? Which architecture that suits Tower of Babel (in Babylonian mithology); Tibetan palace, Chinese rooftops, Japanese temple or Balinese ‘pura?’

    Every ship captains who brought their sails from West to East or vice versa must anchor at the known ports in ancient India including that of in Sri Lanka (from where I believe most of the stories are fabricated) that made the island become one of the marine hubs for their global voyages in circumnavigating the Earth.

    All wisdoms and knowledge from the then-known worlds must be shared and distributed from this way in forms of oral stories, scriptures and literary works written by ancient scholars who later called themselves as Indians (Chanakya), Malays (Candra), Laos (Chekia), Chinese (Shang Ti) or Minangkabauans (cadiak, Chaniago, santiang) to Sunda Javanese (Sakti) who all were combined from multiracial groups, ethnics and religions from time to time.

    Thus it’s understandable why Sanskrit becomes the world’s most complete language which provides many to hundred synonyms for a single term. It has answer for every word puzzle. It’s like a deposit or central bank of languages.

    It’s also understandable why Hindu tradition regards a language scholar, writer or poet as a Rishi (prophet) considering the strategic role he played in producing Hindu’s literary works (sastra) — the key knowledge to Hinduism and it’s derivative beliefs.

    I am beginning my research about all these relations that bind people from different cultures, religions, ethnics and national entities into a commonly acceptable perception called ‘cross-language analysis.’

    And the book won’t ever hurt anybody, hopefully, for what I am exactly doing is putting all the missing chains back in together and open them on the table one by one in sequence of occurences and fixing their timelines in a more visible and rational array.

    The book will be called “The Words Discovery” trekking all possible remnants of the historical links from language perspective — the strongly preserved legacy of man’s civilization ever.

    The book will also unveil the mystery of Abraham’s crossing remark as a criticism toward biblical story saying that Abraham and his father’s (Terach) family crossed from a place identified as Ur Kasdim (Mesopotamia?) to Egypt and came back to Middle East for new settlement — which is not making any sense to others. They might have crossed from a mysterious homeland to Egypt before settling in the Middle East.

    Also, there must be a strong reason behind the Minangkabauan use of word ‘janiah’ (Indonesian ‘jernih’) compared to Persian ‘zarnikh,’ Greek ‘arsenikum to English ‘arson’ and Egyptian ‘asem,’ in describing what today is identified as bright precious metal or Indonesian ’emas’ (gold) while Minangkabauans maintain the use of ‘sapuah’ (silver) for gold-platting or gilding.

    The book will also discover an inter-island pattern of distribution of ancient Indonesians along with world’s population in order to locate where everybody indeed once came and multiplied from.

    There will also be some scientific supports to detect where all human skin colors and their various features (nose, eyes and hair) resulted from.

    Do you believe that Abraham came from Sumatra? Do you believe that the island was the Dragon Country? Do you believe that Solomon flew from Palestine to the island in a single day?

    But the most important and shocking discovery is to locate where indeed the ‘Judi,’ a spot (of a mountain?) where Noah’s ark landed after the deluge, supported by inter-disciplinary clues and my own personal closely-look experience to the place several years ago. The century has come now to dismantle it to the whole world to know.

    The discovery of Noah’s Ark is the second most important world’s search after the mysterious Ophir (King Solomon’s mines) which I have identified in my previous work, the Minangkabau Hebrew glossary, as the Ring of Fire or volcano islands derived from words such as api, aphar, fire, pharo, rapha, meropids, marapi, merapi, para, parahu, perehu, pharaoh, pariangan, parahiyangan, etc. in describing volcanic islands ranging from Nusantara (Indonesian) archipelago, Philippine, Japan as far to the ‘pacifique’ America.

    And again, all the correlations are basically proven by cross-language analysis as much as I have done to my previous FREE e-books about the Minangkabau Hebrew and English glossaries.

    Your support is much welcome here to realize the publication of the book more easily and as part my gratitude included in the book and in order to make the e-book FREE for everyone: http://www.surau.net/contactme/donasisurau.htm

    Depok, 17 Ramadhan 1432 Hijri, 17 August 2011
    Love, peace & Brotherhood,

    (Ali Cestar)

  39. You may want to add an 8th theory. At a website called “achoiceland.com” it is proposed that the book of mormon took place in the Baja California peninsula.

    The strengths of this theory are as follows:

    It has a climate similar to Jerusalem. This made it possible to grow food usings the seeds that they brought from Jerusalem.

    It is nearly surrounded by water.

    The West Sea (pacific ocean) and the East sea (Gulf of california) are close together. There is only one river of significance, San Ignacio River, on the peninsula. This river originates from underground springs, giving it a head instead of head waters.

    The only building materials mentioned in the BOM are wood and cement. So the Nephites did not build pyramids.

  40. You’re right. I didn’t know about it when I wrote this post, but I reviewed Book of Mormon on the Baja here.

  41. Considering all the statements Joseph Smith made about where it happened… why all the crazy theories?
    Naturally there is no archaeological evidence, the book is religious fiction.
    Archaeologists have found thousands of bits of evidence of groups of a few dozen, how could the miss evidence of populations numbering in the millions?

  42. Hi there, Mormons!

    When there is talk of any other model than the hemispheric or the limited-NY model, does anyone ever think of the problem that the golden plates were supposedly found *at the hill Cumorah* in NY?

    I mean, if the BOM took place in Africa or Thailand, did Mormon have to take the plates all the way to the hill near Joseph Smith’s house?! Do they think that there were two different Cumorahs? Help me with this …

  43. TheNikus, welcome. We talked about that earlier on the comments. (You didn’t read all 138???) 🙂 Anyway, John Sorenson supports a two Cumorah theory. I talked about it in comment #4 of this post. But the short version is that even if one subscribes to the Sorenson Central American theory, Moroni had about 30 years after the battle at Cumorah, so he could have buried the plates anywhere. The hill in NY where Joseph found the plates was never claimed to be the place of the final battle. (I believe it was Oliver Cowdery who named the hill in NY as Cumorah, not Joseph.)

  44. I am a Malay, and recently I found out that my great-great grandfather was a Middle-eastern decendant or Arab.

    Its quite intersting to know that the Malay Peninsular bear many similarities to the Book Of Mormon geographical areas.

    Most recently an ancient city was found sunken in the deep water near the Okinawa Island, Japan. There the Japanese researchers found traces of ancient Malay writing and an ancient Malay weapon known as Kris.

    Also it was believe that many ancient Malay city was buried under the sea when the Great Flood occured.

  45. The plates that were buried by Moroni and then dug up and translated by Joseph Smith did not weigh 200 pounds. All the witnesses clearly stated the plates weighed about 40-60 pounds.

  46. At one point, I had this thought that the land could be in the Philippines, Indonesia, or the like. So this Malay idea has an appeal.

    But I too have issues with the idea because of the Moroni declaration.

    What about the American Northwest?

  47. […] [1] For some unconventional Book of Mormon geography theories, check out an older post on W&T blogger Mormon Heretic’s personal blog. […]

  48. […] Bishop Rick. “A Radically Different Book of Mormon Geography Theory” Weblog comment #24. Mormon Heretic. 9 April. 2009. Accessed Sept. 2011. <http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/04/09/a-radically-different-book-of-mormon-geography-theory/#comme…&gt;. […]

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