A little more than 10 years ago, I was vacationing in Hawaii with a few friends. While there, we attended a small branch and became good friends with one of the members there. The member invited us over for family home evening, and introduced me to the idea that the Book of Mormon happened in South America. I had never heard of this before, and became quite intrigued.
He showed me a video produced by Arthur Kocherhans, who produced several videos supporting this theory. While the interviews are very canned, they do present some really interesting information. I guess one of the biggest things to consider is that proponents of the theory claim that much of the South American continent was under water. They note that the rain forests are below sea level even today, and that the Amazon River was so wide that it covered much of the continent. They also note that no human ruins have been found in this area.
There have been several people who have promoted this theory (or variations of it.) The map to the left comes from Venice Priddis book., The Book and the Map. I believe the first person to propose such a theory was Birrell in 1948. Arthur Kocherhans book is Lehi’s Isle of Promise. I was surprised that George Potter also is a proponent of this theory. George has done some excellent work and may have located Nephi’s harbor in Khor Rhori, Yemen. I just got an email newsletter saying George was going to move his studies from the Middle East to South America. I attended a fireside by George about 2 years ago and was quite impressed with his scholarship. George maintains a website at the Nephi Project where he details his archaeological research. You can sign up for a free email newsletter, and he has a few books and videos for purchase.
Pros of the theory:
Proponents of this theory proclaim several reasons why they like this theory.
- Joseph Smith is reported to have said that Lehi landed 30 degrees south of the Equator
- The climate is more similar to a Mediterranean climate than Mesoamerica. They note that Nephi claims to have brought seeds that would grow here, but not Meso.
- It has a real narrow neck of land, unlike Meso
- Potter recently claimed on his website that Hebrew DNA and iron were found here. However, I believe the Jewish DNA claims could be related to Spanish settlers, not natives. Also the iron ore was used for body paint, rather than swords. Still, it is a potentially important find.
Cons of the Theory
- Sorenson claims that it unlikely that the land changed dramatically just 2000 years ago. Perhaps the Amazon River was this wide, but was it this wide just 2000 years ago?
- Generally DNA evidence is weak for all American settings for the Book of Mormon
- Elephants, silks, and metal swords do not seem to exist here.