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

  1. BOMC,

    Under normal circumstances, I would patiently answer your question, but I’m going to give you your answer again, just to give you a taste of your own medicine.

    “You didn’t read the theory.”

    Now, if you want a truce, please go back to the 5 posts I already did on your blog (which I listed above), and patiently answer all my questions, then I’ll patiently answer yours on this topic. I had plenty of questions for you to answer and you simply grew impatient. Therefore, I refuse to exercise any patience for your lack of reading. (Oh, and when you read the Malay, be sure to check every single reference, or I will say again, “you didn’t read the theory.”)

  2. I have read the Malay theory, and I did test against the Geographical Priority Index (see http://www.bookofmormongeography.info/book-of-mormon-geographical-priority-index ) and I am sorry to say that it failed every point.

  3. Ha ha–good one! You come up with your own criteria that only your theory can pass! That’s great!

    You must be a real speed reader. How long did it take you to read 300 pages–about 30 seconds?

    You can’t make a single counter argument referencing Olsen’s theory. You really are a joke. Could you at least reference a page number to show that you read at least 1 page of his manuscript? (After all, I wrote several thousand words quoting your website.)

    Never mind. Please don’t do it.

    BOMC, I really don’t care what you think. You obviously are close minded about anything that remotely questions (let alone disagrees with) your theory, so any conversation is fruitless. I feel bad for saying this, but Thanks for stopping by, and please don’t come back. A meaningful conversation with you is pointless.

  4. So this is what it has come to. Since it is painfully obvious that The BOM is filled with inaccuracies, and outright lies, the only thing the “faithful” can do now to support their Testement is to change the entire story. I was taught that The BOM is another testement of Jesus Christ, and his “other flocks” that he needed to attend. Now, some 180 years later, when people aren’t quite as ignorant, and everyone in the world knows that there was never any Nephites, or Lamanites in the americas, now they want to change the story around. Now Nephi and Laman went to Malay. How convienient. How about this for a new concept. The whole thing is a lie! The BOM, the temple rights, everything.

    I think you have to be a little bit daft to just accept these theroies, but to each his own I guess.

  5. Cajami, thanks for playing.

    For anyone interested in a lively discussion of this topic, it is being vigorously debated over at Mormon Matters. Check out http://mormonmatters.org/2009/04/20/unconventional-book-of-mormon-geography-theories/

  6. “Daft?”

    You’ll find on our web site (www.bookofmormongeography.info) a challenge to the arrogant such as yourself – “If you can’t discern the words of Christ, what chance is there you will be able to discern the truth of The Holy Book of Mormon? NONE.

    Before you bash the Book of Mormon, I suggest you take your head out and look beyond the circumstances of your life at what it is you’re bashing.

    Is Jesus Christ a lie to you?
    Is the resurrection of Jesus Christ a lie to you?
    Is the virgin birth of Jesus Christ a lie to you?
    Is the forgiveness of sin a lie to you?
    Is a day of judgment a lie to you?

    Then leave the Book of Mormon alone as it will only bring God’s wrath against you for rejecting the Good News of Jesus Christ.

  7. Let me cut to the chase before Ralph spends any more time polluting the Book of Mormon Geography waters with an Islamic state.

    1. The Jaredite Land Northward was set aside by God for a righteous people – both then and now. (Ether 2:7)

    2. Whoever occupies THAT LAND must serve God or be swept off.

    3. Whoseover possess it will be kept free from ALL OTHER NATIONS.

    4. The Gentiles will obtain THAT LAND.

    5. The local inhabitants will be scatterd by those Gentiles, but not entirely destroyed.

    6. Together, the two, would build a New Jerusalem ON THAT LAND.

    7. That Gentile nation would become greater than all other nations.

    8. A Gentile among that nation would bring forth The Book of Mormon ON THAT LAND.

    9. The Book of Mormon would go forth to the indeginous peoples ON THAT LAND.

    10. That nation would be a blessing to the Jews, a supporter of Israel.

    11. They will have no king or queen over them, it will be a Christian nation.

    Fulfillment of those prophecies finds fulfillment in only one place and that is in Western New York. The Iroquois Nation possessed BoM lands and jointly founded the government of the New Jerusalem – the United States of America with the Gentiles.

    America has been the greatest nation on earth, centered on Christ. Your geography on the other hand is far from Christian, in fact, it is predominantly Muslim – the anti-Jewish religion.

    Your premise, that “the Malay hypothesis proposes that there are many cherished lands of promise throughout the world” does not excuse the very specific prophecies tied to very specific Book of Mormon lands. (See spam deleted for more details.)

  8. You didn’t bother to reference a single page of Ralph’s theory. Look BOMC, I will block any future posts unless you can show proper references. I am through being nice. This is your last warning, and I am tired of you promoting your theory here. I have have analyzed your theory, and consider it laughable. Any future references to your website will be considered spam.

  9. I just realized there is no link in the comments here for Olsen’s manuscript. It can be found here (though obviously BOMC saw the map–too bad he didn’t bother to download the theory so he could pretend to talk intelligently).

    http://www.mormonheretic.org/2009/04/18/my-first-scoop-the-unpublished-malay-theory/

  10. I really have no idea of where any of the BOM lands are located. I read Sorenson’s worka long time ago and though his model of what the land should look like to be compelling. The exact locations, well, there are a lot of interesting ideas out there. On the matter of “seas” though I would think the Great Lakes would work just fine. The word sea does not imply salt water. Many large lakes around the world have been designated seas. Heck, the word can be used to refer to a baptismal font – the brazen sea of the temple.

  11. Yes, Eric, the BoM lands could have taken place in the Great Lakes area–I’m not denying that. Sorenson and most other scholars believe that the BoM lands are in a more tropical climate because the Lamanites were known to walk around in a loin cloth. I have a hard time believing anyone would do that around Lake Michigan in the Fall, Winter, or Spring.

    Having said that, I will say it is possible the BoM lands happened there, but it is not at the top of my list of viable locations.

  12. It is written, that a great person once said “They have ears but do not hear, they have eyes but do not see”. The scientific method requires that we see before believing and will accept nothing else. Religion requires that we believe before seeing and should we have the opportunity to use the scientific method to prove one point or another, then this is just iceing on the cake. The capacity to believe without seeing is a gift that every human has to one degree or another. It is a gift, that if pursued, can bring one to eternal life. In this pursuit for truth, one should take care not to destoy another’s capacity to believe without seeing.

  13. I think you’ll find this theory facinating. Please visit this site by Jim Warr http://www.mormongeography.com/

  14. Alfonso,

    Thanks for the link! I’ll have to check it out. (Perhaps it could become a future blog post for me….)

  15. Hey, check out this site:
    http://www.atlan.org/
    The idea of an antediluvian advanced civilization (atlantis) being the remnant of Enoch’s zion – the decadent apostatized civilization of Adam – surviving a very plausible explanation for the flood and spreading their culture is very intriguing.

    Most intriguing, however, is the relevance of this theory to ancient religious traditions. The ‘isles of the blessed’ and ancient esoteric rights go hand in hand. Hugh Nibley and this stuff seem to have a lot in common.

    So maybe zion and Eden were to be found on the sunken continent. The people of Nephi left East towards America, and settled it.

    Some might argue that this totally contradicts Zion in Missouri. Perhaps so. But if any of this is true, conceptions are most certainly challenged. So while we are at it: maybe Zion in Missouri was a prototype for establishing the people of God. It was a hands-on lesson for the people of Zion. In the end, the people were established and the place abandoned. Of course, the church is buying land still in Missouri.

    But the church has been wrong on doctrine before. The economy of God views things differently then us. God hopes to establish his people much more than his city. So if we do things thinking we are working towards some doctrinally pure end (such as building a city in a very specific spot), maybe we are in the process establishing ourselves. What’s wrong with that. Obedience doesn’t require that we understand the full scope of the consequences of it.

    So, it’s all outlandish, but if true – there’s a whole mess of history and revelation yet to grace our curious inclinations.

  16. Abandoned Missouri? ZS, there are three Restoration denominations with temples or church buildings within a block of each other on the “Temple Lot” in Independence that I know about, and I’m sure there are a few more lurking as close to the boundaries as possible.

    Do a midwest trip with the family sometime, from Nauvoo to Carthage to Liberty Jail to Independence. Your heritage will come alive.

    And if you really want to make a summer of it, Check in at Kirtland and Palmyra, too. I got to take those trips as a boy, and they are lifelong meaningful experiences to me.

    In fact, my daughter is certain that she visited Nauvoo as a child, and I know she never did.

  17. ZSorenson,

    Thanks for the link. So have you read the book? I glossed over the intro, but I’ll have to check it out in more detail. It seems the South China Sea is home to both the BoM and Atlantis, eh? We really need to get some archaeologists over there (or in your case, diving archaeologists.) Do you think I could get a free copy if I promise to do a book review?

  18. I have no idea about the free book. I just ordered it actually (having discovered it awhile ago but deciding to read it after viewing this blog post).

    If I find time, I’ll write a bit in this thread for everyone once I read it.

    This sort of speculative stuff I find actually helpful. I find that when I push my limits of understanding – keeping in mind a healthy skepticism – I can make sure I really understand what God wants from us.

    I read a website claiming a N. New York state Book of Mormon location. One of their central points was that the Book of Mormon is meant to draw us to Christ, and that any geography must somehow remind us of that. I can’t really think why that has to do with upstate New York, the point is true!

    Exploring and challenging our view of history and Zion in its context can help us understand what really matters about these things. What was Zion? And why do we care?

    So we can pack up in our RV’s and drive down their (to Missouri) to live the United Order? Or is there more to it…

    Some hate this sort of speculation, as harmful and unhelpful. I don’t.

  19. Yes, ZSorenson, I like to think outside the box too, and am interested in learning a little more.

  20. […] have previously highlighted a Great Lakes Theory, and the Malay Theory.  How do you think it […]

  21. It appears, to me, that everyone is trying to locate these BOM lands without the assistance of heavan. The original description of these lands reportadly comes from heavan but using the presant day topography of North, Central, and South America, so far, has made it impossible to find. Which may lead some investigators
    to lose their faith altogether.
    Should one find themselves in such a situation the following exersize is recommended before one falls into the atheistic black hole of nothingness.
    It is now a proven fact that the universe is vast beyond comprehension and a reasonable person will conclude that there is a civilization more advanced than ours somewhere in the universe.
    It does not take much of a stretch to assume that the leader of this advanced civilization – has been and/or presently is- in contact with certain parties of our civilization.
    A reasonable person will also conclude that we do not have the ability, in and of ourselves, to understand the attributes of the advanced civilization. That we must have guidance from the advanced civilization in order to have some sort of understanding of its attributes.
    It has been said by some, that we have had quite a bit of guidance from this advanced civilization and, that perhaps, there may be those that have failed to follow the guidance that has been given, to the point where the leader of the advanced civilization may be offended.
    Does anyone think that in pursuing this quest of finding the actual BOM lands without the help of heaven may be an insult to the leader of the advanced civilization?

  22. This is the very topic that started me down the road of disbelief. Fact is none of the current theories fit. That is not to say that a viable theory will not surface that does fit the bill, but I personally don’t like any of the current ones.

    I have to say though that of all the present theories, the Great Lakes theory seems to have the most merit, but like MH stated, it has many holes as well, so it falls short.

    If only Michigan was the Malay peninsula.

  23. Yes, none of the theories fit — including the idea that the BofM is a 19th century book. Which makes the book a scientific puzzle without any answer at present, and leaves the question of whether to believe it or not a matter to individual decision, based on whatever criteria one chooses.

  24. FireTag, I’m curious why you believe the BoM could not be a 19th century book.
    Do you think its possible or are you convinced that there is no way it can be?

  25. Bishop Rick,

    You may want to check out my post on the Spaulding Theory. While I didn’t get many comments here, I did a shorter version of the post over at Mormon Matters (the link is in the comments.) We had quite the lively discussion on Mormon Matters.

    Perhaps you have a better theory that the BoM is a 19th century document?

  26. It’s no secret that I think it is, but when someone is so sure that it’s not, I am curious as to why. My reasons are the anachronisms. Just can’t explain them away with matching objects to modern words, or the perfect JS predictions that don’t go past his time so anyone could make those predictions. Things like that. The DNA didn’t help either. The biggest problem is that EVERYTHING I was taught about the BoM growing up, has turned out to be wrong and is now having to be justified. How could the entire church have been wrong about so many things? Too much to attribute to human error in my opinion.

    The only theory that fits for me is that the BoM is a 19th century document. That one explains everything.

  27. BR:

    I’ve actually promised a full post on this on my own blog, as soon as I can get out from under a tight deadline for a client, and I’ve been arguing the issue with BewaretheChicken in the thread on my blog “The Brass Ball”. My position simply is that to argue that the Book is a 19th Century Document exposes THAT theory to the same sort of scientific criticism that can be applied to the ancient origins theories. I find the book to contain anachronisms of 20th Century knowledge (sometimes late 20th Century knowledge) in fields where I believe I know more than the experts in 19th century history do. I find others can make very convincing arguments for similar anachronisms in their own fields, as I point out in the post “Science Tribes”.

    So I regard the Book as a scientific anomaly, and I am comfortable with that as an interesting and important puzzle, not a challenge to faith. (Physicists get comfortable with such notions; the two pillers of modern physics, general relativity and quantum mechanics, are fundamentally incompatible with each other.)

    That neutralizes the science in my attitude toward the Book of Mormon, and leaves it up to my personal sense of the spirit. (And, yes, I am aware that science has a lot to say abojut what and why we believe what we believe.)

  28. FT: the issue we were discussing was the “possibility” that the Brass Ball “could” be something like the Liahona. This is typical to all the evidence I’ve ever seen on the historicity of the BoM – that either (a) it is “possible” it is historic or (b) it is “improbable” that the authors could have known/guessed/imagined something. I too would like to see someone present what evidence exists that makes it “impossible” for the BoM to be a 19th century product.

  29. I am really looking forward to FireTag’s post. I didn’t hear any official theories from Bishop Rick. Are you saying that you think Joseph just came up with the BoM on his own, or do you like the Spaulding Theory, or View of the Hebrews? If you believe Joseph is a con artist, do you feel he has any genius abilities?

  30. I think JS was a genius. The stuff he accomplished is amazing. I wouldn’t even attempt to imagine attempting the stuff he came up with. He truly was brilliant. This however makes it all the more easy to suspect him of producing the BoM from the earthly resources that were available to him at the time. And, don’t sell the abilities of Oliver C short either.

    Both the Spaulding and VoH theories are possible, but likely not to the extent they are often cited. I have read much of VoH and I don’t think there are that many similarities, but Joseph was a brilliant orator. All he really needed was an idea, and those were available.

  31. Thanks Bishop Rick. I got in a pretty big argument with a Doug G about the Spaulding Theory over at MM. Doug kept saying that Sidney Rigdon was the brains behind the BoM, and I just can’t accept that argument at all. I’m much more comfortable with your position than Doug’s. Doug liked to stack all the theories together, and I felt that was a little unfair. I will note that Alexander Campbell, who knew Sidney Rigdon well, believed the BoM was a creation of Joseph Smith. Of all the “fiction” theories, that one is the most believable to me, though I don’t subscribe to that theory either.

    Did you check out Malay at all? I think it takes care of nearly all the anachronisms, though it obviously has a few problems of its own.

  32. I did check that one out, hence my comment that its too bad Michigan is not the Malay peninsula. That would be the perfect solution.

    Of course I still have other issues outside geography. Not specific to the BoM, but religious texts in general.

    Thread Jack Warning:

    I just can’t believe any text that predicts the future. Knowing how its all gonna end seems a bit counter to eternal progression.

  33. Bishop Rick, you and Tara give me so many ideas to create new posts–I hope I remember them all. Perhaps I should create a new page for suggested new posts to keep track of them all…..

  34. Concerning the comments made on July 8&9. Would it be a blessing or curse if fragments of metalic like plates were discovered in a tomb with other treasures and were verified by independant sources in the scientific community to support several aspects of the BOM?

  35. BR:

    I’m going to have to start a list of future posts, too.

    The problems of what the ability to predict the future does to eternal progression, freewill, etc. are very real, and they aren’t simply confined to Restoration doctrines of scripture. Our very notions of past, present, and future get messed up by modern cosmology, and all of our mainstream Christian and Mormon ideas of theology have been implicitly framed by concepts of time and eternity that are outmoded.

  36. Sxark, that sounds like a loaded question, but I’ll bite. However, more info needed.
    Please explain how metal fragments support aspects of the BoM first.
    Then I will be able to answer your question.

  37. FT, I struggled with that one even when I still considered myself a TBM.

  38. BR:

    There are highly technical reasons, involving math arguments I can barely follow on my best days, why a number of physicists believe any fundamental theory of how the universe is put together can’t have time as an essential element. So, although we’re a long way from understanding time, there is some reason to think that the theological complications may be a problem with how we frame the questions, rather than that the questions are unanswerable.

    We may be asking, “What’s the difference between a duck?”

  39. I’ve read theories about bending time, slowing time and even reversing time, but outside Back to the Future, I have never seen a theory for going forward in time (relative to the present) and coming back.

  40. The ideas are more fundamental than the ones you’re mentioning, because those ideas you’ve mentioned all presume that time MATTERS. There are theories in which time goes away (see works of Julian Barbour); of “block time” (see Fabric of Reality by David Deutsch) in which time does not flow, and may even be viewed in alternative sequences, like dealing a deck of cards in a different order; where it has multiple dimensions, like “normal space” does, theories in which time is a macroscopic effect of something entirely more fundamental, and a few other options.

    The truth is probably something we haven’t even thought of yet.

    MH: Forgive the threadjack.

  41. True; but it is a structure in which the ability to go into the future, go into the past, and repeat, is intuitive. There are even some strange solutions of general relativity which appear to contain “closed time-like curves”.

  42. Time does matter in multi-dimensions since it is one of the dimensions.

  43. To: B. Rick & Firetag: Since, it has been said, That “time” is made for man [on earth] and that God has his own “time” it would appear that any discussion of how time truely conducts itself thruout the universe would be fruitless without the express help from the entity that brought forth the idea in the 1st place.
    If you can accept the idea that a more advanced civilization exists somewhere in the universe than you must conclude the possibility that the advanced civilization may have attributes that are far beyond our capabilities to understand. However, it has been said by some that the leaders of an advanced civilization have been in contact and have given a great deal of information concerning their attributes. One such example, as explained by others, is the concept of “Faith” and should someone find that tomb somewhere that contained unrefutable evidence backing up the stories of the BoM then it certainly might be a blessing for some – and a curse for others. It would be a curse for others because they would have failed to use their faith in the “proper” manner and the bar of faith for them would certanly have to be raised if they are to pass this great test we all are involved in.

  44. I feel like I need to start a new post on the space-time continuum. All these comments have strayed pretty far off of Malay.

    The problem is that I am an expert in Back to the Future, but I don’t know how 1.21 jigga-watts or a flux capacitor makes time travel possible. Where’s Doc Brown? Shall I post a time-Kolob post so y’all can hash this out? Frankly, I think FireTag is the expert on this topic, much more than I.

  45. Well, since I was going to post a response to Sxark, you have my vote for a space/time continuum discussion. It would help if you add Sxark’s last comment to the comment field, and I will hold my response til then…if you choose to make that post.

  46. I have a draft in progress in which I’m going to talk about how scientific advances have altered some of the assumptions that motivated the concept of “non-overlapping magisteria” in delineating the boundary between faith and science. I actually intend to use the idea of advanced civs as an example.

  47. Since the source of the BoM said that this was a record of inhabitants of this [American] hemisphere then, no matter how atractive, the Malay theory would be invalid.

    I only brought up the advanced civilization concept for those whos faith has been shaken by the excellent analysis of supposed errors in the BoM.

    Because of what is now known about the universe, it requires little or no faith to come to the conclusion that an advanced civilization exists somewhere. Any reasonable person now has no choice and has to accept this premise simply because our sun is so young in comparison with other older stars.

    Now comes the rub. After one completes a philosophy class discussing every angle of what “advanced” really means you will come to the conclusion that you are helpless if you attempt to describe the attributes of this advanced civ in full. And that the only way to do this is to have the assistance from a member of the advanced civ.

    Then the question appears. Has this communication process occured?

  48. Sxark,

    You are making a big assumption (as most do) when you say “the source of the BoM said that this was a record of inhabitants of this [American] hemisphere.” I remind you that the BoM never says that itself. We get that idea from Joseph Smith. Using your advanced civilization idea, it certainly is possible that Joseph misunderstood what Moroni was saying, since Moroni was now so advanced. It is also possible that Joseph was more advanced than the people mentioned in the BoM, and he could have misinterpreted the BoM, because he couldn’t really understand a civilization so much more primitive.

    I’m no philosopher, nor claim to be one, but if we go with your idea, the problem between Joseph Smith and the BoM could simply be chalked up to the idea that Joseph was either to advanced or too primitive to fully comprehend where the BoM took place.

  49. MH,

    The “idea” from Joseph Smith comes from an encounter that J. Smith said he had with a being [Moroni], obviosly not from this dimension, that told him that these plates were a record this [American] hemisphere.

    Critics of the BoM and the American church directly connected to the BoM cannot get past this point. That Joseph Smith had an encounter, with what he calls [para-phrase] heavenly beings at the age of 14 and that he had further encounters with another [heavenly] being who showed him where the golden plates were as well as some other items. Joseph Smith was informed that it was now his mission in life to proclaim to the world an additional testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to set up a new everlasting church that would never die.

    So far, the world has been given one irrefutable gift that requires no faith and appears to support some aspects of the BoM as a record of former inhabitants of the American continent. – Quetzalcoattl

    See # 18, posted on July 8 and consider, that it is said, that one attribute of the prime sender of messages to Joseph Smith, the Apostle Paul, and Moses is that he is aware when a little birdie falls to ground dead. This is love and power far beyond any person can comprehend.

    In the communication process, who is more responsible that the message is received properly – the sender or receiver? Although it is said that the BoM is an abriged book, there were several people involved with putting this record together.

    But back to the critics. They just are not sure who Joseph Smith spoke with, or did he and his friends dream this all up? Which brings everyone back to the attributes of the advanced civilization that we cannot understand save we have assistance from someone from the advanced civ. There are those that say that this communication process has taken place. [“They have ears, but do not hear. – They have eyes, but do not see”

  50. That Moroni encounter is part of the PoGP so it is considered part the LDS canon. Here’s where I have a problem with Sxark’s ideas:

    Just because there are Stars that are older than our sun does not make the existence of alien advanced civilizations fact. It doesn’t even guarantee the existence of lower lifeforms.

    And, Quetzalcoattl is definitely not a gift that requires no faith. The LDS depiction of Quetzalcoattl is totally inaccurate. 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.

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