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Book of Mormon on the Baja

When I think  of the Baja California Peninsula, I think of the Baja 1000 off-road race where people take lots of vehicles and cross the deserts in all sorts of vehicles.  However, the father-son team of David and Lynn Rosenvall believe the Baja Peninsula (south of California in Mexico–its most famous city you may recognize is Tijuana) could be the location of Book of Mormon lands.  I’ve been promising to do a post on this theory, and it is time to review it in more detail.

This review should not be considered comprehensive.  I have reviewed their 60 page pdf file called “An Approach to Book of Mormon Geography“.  Since I downloaded and read a copy of this article, they have added a few more articles found on their Geography page, but I have not had time to review these.  I will invite David and Lynn to stop by and answer questions about their theory.

I have reviewed a few other theories in the past.  I reviewed BOMC’s Great Lakes Theory, Ralph Olsen’s Malay Theory, and Venice Priddis’ South American Setting.  My purpose in reviewing theories is to provide constructive criticism.  Some people have very thin skin, and I try to be charitable, providing both pros and cons to a theory.  I want someone’s theory to be right, so it is imperative to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of a theory.  I claim no allegiance to any theory–it’s just a topic I love to discuss.  I still plan to review two of the bigger heavyweights: Sorenson’s Theory, and Meldrum’s Theory.  Additionally, Theodore Brandley’s North American Theory, and Garth Norman’s MesoAmerican Theory are also future topics I plan to post on (lest anyone think I was running out of ideas.)  (Norman and Sorenson overlap quite a bit, but there are some important differences.)

Lynn Rosenvall is a geography professor at the University of Cardston, and received his PhD in geography from Cal-Berkeley.  His son David has an MBA from BYU and is Chief Technological Officer of Imergent Inc. (StoresOnline.com).  They’ve put together an impressive array of satellite maps using Google maps for their theory.  The Website dedicated to the theory is called A Choice Land.  I printed a copy of the Theory from Feb 2009–the current version on the website is from March 2009.  I’m not sure how long it has been published, but as I understand it, the theory is pretty new.

Strengths

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.

In the overview article, the Rosenvalls go into great detail on showing how similar the climate of Baja California is to the Mediterranean.  Nephi says he brought seeds with him to the New World, and these seeds grew.  It is important for the climates to be similar.  (Another theory I reviewed shows Chile/Peru have Mediterranean climates as well.)  I think this is an important aspect of their theory.  The Rosenvalls point out that many of the fruits and vegetables we eat in America are grown on the Baja Peninsula.

The Rosenvalls seem to follow Sorenson’s methodology for calculating distances.  I view this as one of Sorenson’s greatest contributions to Book of Mormon research, and I’m glad to see that the Rosenvalls seem to follow a similar method for calculating distances.  It is pretty apparent to me that the Book of Mormon lands are much smaller than the hemispheric models that early Mormons (and many lay members) thought about the Book of Mormon.

The Rosenvalls make a case that the Uto-Aztecan language bears similarities to Hebrew.  I think this is both a strength and a weakness, but I’m putting this in the strength section.  Frankly, I think the Rosenvalls should really expand on this point.  I note that there is more information in the new PDF than the one I downloaded last year, but I think it should be expanded upon further.  This has the potential to be a big help with their theory.

Weaknesses

Since I mentioned languages, I ought to explain weaknesses as well.  While these language families are in the Southwestern US and mainland Mexico, I don’t believe there is evidence that Indians on the Baja Peninsula spoke in one of these language dialects.  Perhaps they traveled off the Baja Peninsula, but these ties need to be strengthened to really take advantage of this information.  Even if there are similarities between Uto-Aztecan languages, I’m not aware of any DNA evidence linking Uto-Aztecan tribes to the Mediterranean, which is another problem.

While I understand this is an introduction to the theory, there are many other aspects of Book of Mormon that are merely touched on, or completely missing.  The theory discusses flora and fauna extensively, but doesn’t discuss wheat, barley, or silk.  Animals aren’t mentioned either, such as the elephants or animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  What is the best candidate for cureloms and cumons?  Is there evidence for sheep, horses, or cows?

Additionally, does the archaeology date to Book of Mormon times?  Is there evidence that chariots existed?  Have swords, cimitars, or other weapons been found?  I will say as a general rule, that most North, Central, or South American theories cannot find any evidence archaeologically for many of the weapons mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  For a theory to really stand out, such evidence needs to be found.

Sorenson has found a sharp weapon that he is calling a sword: sharp obsidian triangular blades attached to a wooden club, but the Book of Mormon says the swords rusted, so however sharp and lethal Sorenson’s obsidian/wood weapon is, it certainly wont rust.  This type of evidence needs to be accounted for by any theory, and the lack of mention of these problematic parts of the Book of Mormon needs to be addressed in the overview.

Warfare

I’ve come across Morgan Deane, and I hope to invite him to participate in this discussion.  Morgan has his own site called Warfare and the Book of Mormon.  Morgan has a Masters Degree in History, and has presented papers on Napoleonic warfare and published papers about Asian, Napoleonic and Book of Mormon Warfare.  Since the Rosenvalls included information about battles (roughly pages 36-50), I’d like to see what Morgan thinks of Baja geography in relation to some of these battles.  I will defer to him completely as to whether this is a strength or a weakness.  (Morgan, I’m also curious for you to comment on my previous post about the Exodus–I discuss Egyptian chariots, and wonder if you might comment on some of the warfare mentioned in that theory as well.)

So, what do you think of this Baja Theory?

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41 comments on “Book of Mormon on the Baja

  1. Thanks for the shout out and link to my blog. I feel a little bit sheepish sending people there as with my current personal problems the posts are not as polished as I like.

    But I still appreciate you inviting my opinion. I’m off to church, but I have some reading materials for when I get back. 🙂 I have also done a brief post on this geography theory a while back, I will link to it when I get the chance.

  2. Morgan: The link you typed in to your blog for the MH sign-in is not working.

    Link in the OP does work fine.

    One of the first things that bothered me about the Malay Theory was the fact that Sumatra is kind of hard to miss when you’re living on an adjacent penninsula for 1000 years or so.

    I find the Baja web site beautiful, but the first (and not necessarily last) question I had to ask myself before exploring further was similar: How do you live across the Sea of Cortez for 1000 years AFTER you learned how to cross the Pacific and NOT discover and settle Mexico? It’s like fleas living on the tail and not infesting the dog.

  3. I read it.

    I see several big problems: Where is the archeological evidence? They say that the BoM counts, thats true but every geographic model can say that. I am disturbed when people try to explain away the lack of evidence. Even modest civilizations leave traces of their existence. For instance, wooden houses may completely dissapear in a generation or two…but the impression of the foundation will remain much longer. Where is the evidence of a writing system and complex society that the BoM describes? Remember every “ite” was wicked for at least a little bit of their history, so there would be evidence of building projects and a stratified society. Bottom line, when you have a society that existed for a 1000 years and supported massive populations, writing systems, multiple class, etc, I would expect to see more. This theory does not have that going for it.

    From a military history standpoint I only noticed one thing: They mentioned the rate of travel during a battle would be slower than normal. (p.54) I think the rate of travel would actually be FASTER if you were manuevering for survival. For example, one of Stonewall Jackon’s infantry units travelled 50 miles in one day when threatened with destruction.

    They also make the claim that the Jaredites were destroyed down to a single person. Most scholars and scholarship suggest that a significant amount of Jaredites survived and influenced Nephite society. (Starting with Hugh Nibley in “The World of the Jaredites”) They also fail to mention the point made by Firetag. So they crossed the Pacific but never expanded across a small bay? I should mention that Nephi spent 7 years travelling in “the land of the north”, so its possible that some Nephite lands were farther away and simply never mentioned due to the Zarahemla-centric record keepers.

    Finally, why would a victorious Lamanite nation abandon all of their cities, in addition to the newly conquered Nephite cities? Wouldn’t we excpect to find a large and advanced tribe in the Baja area with a long history? If the land was so choice, why leave it?

    here is the link where I mention their site before. http://mormonwar.blogspot.com/2009/11/nephihah-in-google-earth.html

  4. @FireTag
    The Book of Mormon talks very little about sailing or shipping after the Lehites arrived except when Hagoth begins shipping provisions on the West Sea northward (Alma 63:5-6).

    There is one interesting mention of land on the east side when Moroni abridged the Book of Ether. Moroni clearly describes a “place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20), this location is “by the narrow neck of land”. What is remarkable about that statement is the in Baja California, where we have identified the narrow neck of land, is the only place along the entire peninsula that you can see main land Mexico from the peaks of the mountains. Many travelers have described that location.

  5. @Morgan
    Archaeology appears to be the litmus test for Book of Mormon “geography”, rather than the “geography”. We appreciate the desire to find something man made that can be tied to the text of the Book of Mormon. However, we started with the “geography” knowing that if we could correlate “geographical” items other things like archeology, geology, botany and zoology would make more sense.

    The article you have read was simply a “geographical” overview. We are currently working on an article that addresses your question regarding archaeology, but let me make a few comments here. To tie something to the text of the Book of Mormon archaeologically you will need to identify something in the text that could potentially be preserved 2000 years. We have scoured the text and the best we have been able to find that is mentioned in the text of the Book of Mormon is roads and walls. There is nothing in the text that says they built foundations of stone or even buildings of stone, so it doesn’t help us. Baja California is covered in ancient roads that no one can explain. These roads are on average 10 to 12 feet wide with rocks lining the edges. These roads have outlasted the Camino Real that the spanish built 200 years ago. Most of these roads are concentrated around the center of Baja California. If you study ancient roads in Italy you will understand that width is unusual as it was the required width for carts and carriages.

    You ask about writing systems. You probably didn’t know this but Baja California has the worlds largest collection of petroglyphs (painted murals). There are over 700 know sites with the majority again centered around central Baja California. It is difficult to interpret these murals but a few things are very common, two peoples are depicted (red and black), and these early people did a lot of hunting and fighting. I suspect gold plates were not available to every citizen, but the people recognized the importance of record keeping and might have used what means that were available to them.

    The travel rate of any army does fluctuate depending on what there task is. If they are running for their lives they probably did move faster. If they are being deployed for combat and needed to ensure their supply chain is intact they probably moved slower. You have to look at the context to understand their rate of speed. In our example (Alma 2) the armies were fighting a civil war and probably trying to maintain their ground, thus the slower speed.

    We never make the claim that the Jaredites were destroyed down to a single person. The Book of Mormon doesn’t even say that. We wrote an article you can read if you want to get our official stand on the Jaredites (http://www.achoiceland.com/jaredites). It has strong correlation to Baja California.

    After Cumorah the land became cursed (Hel. 13:17). I’m sure many of the Lamanites stayed on the Peninsula but they probably retreated to their tribal system and warred with each other (Moro. 1:2). You may be interested to find out that when the Jesuits first arrived on the peninsula they encountered the natives which called themselves Laimon (or Laymon) which the Jesuits eventually called Cochimi. These people were very primitive and in my estimation very cursed based on their condition. You can google those terms and see where that happened. What are the chances the Jesuits would record phonetically the same name that Joseph Smith used for a major group of people in the Book of Mormon? As far as a large population today, remember that the diseases that the Europeans brought to Baja California killed an estimated 90-95% of the native people.

  6. David:

    The lack of mention of shipping is part of the problem. As Morgan noted in a post a long time ago, military moves faster by rivers or coasts than by land. The lack of any reference to shipping, even in the context of battle tactics, tells you the Nephites were an inland power, not a coastal one. The fact that there is a place in the Baja where you can SEE Mexico makes the problem worse, rather than supplies a solution.

  7. The study of linguistics is beyond my expertise but I did read a very interesting article written by Brian Stubbs (http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=5&num=1&id=112). The most interesting thing about this article is the correlation of semitic languages to the uto-aztecian languages. The other interesting thing is the source of the family group, southern California. If you study the uto-aztecan language you will see there are seven families that make it up. The same number of families that were at war with one another at the end of the Book of Mormon (Morm. 1:8). There is a lot more to be learned here.

    If you get the chance to visit the museum in La Paz you see some very unlikely artifacts next to the spanish swords. They have a collection of ancient metal implements some in the shape of swords that are extremely rusted. The curator of the museum couldn’t explain what they were and had no explanation for them.

    The museum also had collections of fossilized bones of horses, elephants and camels that were found on the peninsula. I don’t know what a curelom or a cumom is but a camel would make sense. Even the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles have found all the animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

    The evidence of wheat and barely is difficult, we started from the premise that the plausibility of growing those crops was possible today, and in Baja California these crops are grown today. We’d have to hope that someone stumbles upon such seeds in a burial site or something. Seeds don’t last long. The thing about plants that are interesting though is that grapes, olives and flax are very evident even today because of the climate. To source silk that we know today you need to find mulberry bushes which grow very well in Mediterranean climates. There are two items mentioned in the Book of Mormon that are found in Baja California: pearls and whales.

  8. @FireTag
    I’ve assumed the minimal mention of shipping in the Book of Mormon suggests, if anything, that they didn’t do a lot of it. The fact the Book of Mormon talks about a specific location where they knew the east sea separated two lands is helpful from a “geographical” standpoint. I believe it adds to the hundreds of other geographical assertions that one must use to correlate the text of the Book of Mormon to a physical location on the surface of the earth. It is the correlation of all the assertions that is the strongest evidence of any proposed location, not a couple of references that so many other models focus on.

  9. Many have used the terms “massive population” or “great civilization” to describe the number of people that the Book of Mormon writes about. The problem is that none of those terms are used in the Book of Mormon. If you study natural growth rates it is very difficult to get to millions of people in the Book of Mormon. All we know is that about 30 to 40 people arrived and best guess there were about 600,000 700,000 at the time of cumorah (assuming 230,000 nephites and more than that for the lamanites). If you use those two numbers you get an average growth rate over a thousand years of about 1 to 2% per year. Which is very typical for ancient people. Using that rate you can estimate at specific periods how many people existed. For the most part it was 10,000’s spread across about 15,000 square miles. That is not very dense. The people were also very migratory, so I’m not sure what we should “expect” to find. Even the large population of the children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years did not leave a lot of evidence.

    Most don’t know that at the time of the Savior Jerusalem was only about 45 acres in size (see the maps in the back of the scriptures). I doubt Zarahemla was larger than that, so the “massive populations” may be misleading.

  10. David:

    Neither Morgan nor I are arguing from the perspective of people who do not believe in Book of Mormon historicity. The criticisms are of the model being proposed. The lack of shipping in the text of the Book of Mormon does indeed argue that the Nephites did little coastal shipping, although it does not exclude other peoples in the area from doing so. Hence, the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon says the Nephites are an inland power and NOT on an elongated land such as Baja.

    You even have to be careful in translation models for directions; Sorenson notes that at the time of Lehi, directions were not even cinceptualized on a modern basis among his people.

    See http://thefirestillburning.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/sorenson-dna-and-book-of-mormon-directions/

  11. I appreciate your responses David. On page 51 of your PDF document it says that “unlike the Nephite and Lamanite civilizations, the Jaredite civilization was destroyed right down to the last person.” But in the next sentence you mention the possibility of splinter groups. So I’m still a little confused as to your real position concerning the end of the Jaredites.

    Concerning arceeology, your mention of possible lingustic (sp.) connections, roads, and a possible writing system are excellent starts. But I remain skeptical until I can read more.

    I have to echo Firetag’s concern about using modern assumptions with an ancient writer. For instance, your use of the word “isle” with a the modern oxford dictionary is one of these examples. I doubt Nephi, or Moroni had the Oxford English dictionary in mind when they wrote their descriptions of land. Most likely they had their ethnocentric and ancient assumptions in mind when writing.

    Thanks again for your responses.

  12. David, I want to comment on a few things you said.

    To tie something to the text of the Book of Mormon archaeologically you will need to identify something in the text that could potentially be preserved 2000 years. Absolutely. I don’t know if you saw my Sodom and Gomorrah post, but that stuff has been around even longer–more like 3000 years, and there’s even evidence of fire at Numeira. Archaeology is what makes or breaks any geography theory. Certainly Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and even Native American archaeology dates back more than 2000 years.

    the large population of the children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years did not leave a lot of evidence. I hope you read my previous post on the Exodus, because I think there are many parallels with BoM geography. For example, I quoted Prof Hoffmeier saying the Exodus may have had as few as 5000 people due to a mistranslation of the Bible. It says that there were 600 elith of men that left. Elith can be translated as thousand, clan, or as a small military unit. Hoffmeier believes the military unit best explains the numbers, and a smaller group of people would have left much less evidence.

    Like Book of Mormon geography, there are many questions about the location of Mount Sinai, the Red Sea, and the route the Israelites traveled. This gives skeptics ammunition that it never happened, but it also means that they could be digging in the wrong place. For example, Jacobovici and Hoffmeier believe the Red Sea is a mistranslation of the Reed Sea, and that the Israelites crossed what is now a dry lake bed. Others believe it is the Israelites crossed the Gulf of Aqaba (right arm of the Red Sea). From the evidence I saw in the 3 videos I listed, Aqaba seems to be most promising to me. Hoffmeier has discovered some ancient Egyptian forts near this dry lake bed, but no Israelite artifacts. If some of the underwater coral in Aqaba can be linked to ancient Egyptian chariot wheels, I think the Aqaba site will be much more compelling. The photos were fascinating to me. So, archaeology in that case will decide which geography theory is best. I think archaeological evidence will make or break your case as well.

    FireTag, regarding Sumatra, or even mainland Mexico, I want to show a parallel of Biblical lands. There is an ancient city called Sephoris in Israel dating to the time of Jesus, yet it’s never mentioned in the Bible. Some scholars speculate that it is the city on a hill that could not be hid that Jesus referred to. Since it is in close proximity to Jesus of Galilee, it seems rather strange to be absolutely missing from the Biblical record. Since Jesus was a carpenter, Sephoris would have had many building projects that Jesus would have worked on. It’s nearly impossible that Jesus did not visit, yet the city is strangely absent from the Bible.

    Since the Bible is a theological record, rather than a historical one, Sephoris is not theologically important. Jesus seems to have pitched his message to the poor, peasant farmers, rather than the rich citizens of Sephoris who were probably less likely to be receptive to Jesus message. While it is strange that Sephoris is not mentioned in the Bible, the lack of mention probably has more theological implications than historical ones.

  13. @FireTag

    I think one can safely suggest shipping was not important to the Book of Mormon record even though they did do some. Your response focuses more around the concept of others sailing and finding the Baja Peninsula from other lands. We definitely know the Mulekites did and if others did we have to speculate that point because we don’t have a record of it, but it is possible.

    The question of directions is central for other models to work. I believe the Book of Mormon people understood the cardinal directions as we use them today. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, north and south are perpendicular to that line. The Book of Mormon states that Lehi and his family followed in a south-southeast direction along the coast of the red sea. That exact direction correlates with modern directions. It was immediately after receiving the liahona that this direction was stated, which might suggest one of the spindles was a compass. In fact about 400 years later the people still had the liahona in their possession (Alma 37:38) and the record clearly states that the word liahona means compass. We also know that the book of mormon was translated by the gift and power of God into English and I would suspect the Lord was not trying to confuse the reader by rotating all the directions 90 degrees. This is one of the problems I have with other popular theories–the reinterpretation of the Book of Mormon. I would suggest applying Occums Razor to the concept of directions.

  14. @Morgan Thanks for the clarification. I misread what you were implying. In our article on the Jaredites we suggest that there were many families that arrived with Jared and his family (Ether 6:16). This large group we have called “Jaredites” even though there would have been direct descendants of just Jared and not the others that we also called “Jaredites”. It is Jared’s descendants that were annihilated down to the last person. The other groups which aren’t direct descendants of Jared that probably went on to populate most of North America. We suspect though that over the 2000 years of their existence that many could have wandered off and intermarried with the other families as suggested by Hugh Nibley. Thanks for the clarification.

    After we came upon the possibility of Baja California we wanted to know what archaeology had been done. We have since learned that basically no archaeology has been done in Baja Peninsula, especially in the interior where the Nephites appeared to live. This is based on the statements of many leading archaeologists including Crosby who appears to have written the most on the subject. If you know of any archaeology please let us know. We are not archaeologists, we are geographers, that is why we started with geography. We hope that there will be more archaeological evidence, but we thought that we should try to inventory what the Book of Mormon records states that we could expect to find, and there isn’t much. If you have any references in the Book of Mormon that you think one should find we would be very appreciative. The problem we have had is many have assumed we need stone pyramids, or baptismal fonts, or cement highways, etc. None of these things are mentioned in the record so that if we find them what does it prove. Nothing if we can’t tie it back to the Book of Mormon.

    On our last visit around the hill we believe is the hill cumorah we did find evidence of arrow heads and fire rings, but even that doesn’t help us, as those are things that are found all around the world. We need unique items to find or the ability to read a unique description on something we find that ties us back to the record.

    The word “isle” is a definition in the modern oxford dictionary, but so are all the other words in the English Book of Mormon. The point to consider is that the record was translated by the gift and power of God and we presume it was translated into modern english words that we the modern reader would understand. We believe the understanding of words is very important and we have spent a lot of time researching them, especially from the time period of the early 1800’s. For example the word cattle probably means cows to the modern reader, but if you look at the definition you will learn that it comes from the word chattel which means property other than real estate such as cows, oxen, pigs, goats etc. In fact the word chattel is used in legal documents today for the same meaning. That simple understanding adds a lot when you read the record of the Book of Mormon and the Bible. Look up Ether 9:18 where the record reiterates this same definition. Look up words like chariots, towards, over, sea, etc. the use of these words are great examples that Joseph Smith “translated” this book by the gift and power of God.

  15. Thanks David. I’m not an trained archaelogist (in fact I have trouble spelling the word in most cases, lol). Thats why I generally take a wait and see approach to most theories. I appreciate the passion you bring to the subject and I look forward to seeing more updates on your site. If you haven’t looked into it already, I would suggest trying to get some of your ideas and research published with the Maxwell Institute. I don’t think they will agree with you, but you will recieve valuable feedback from people who are trained in the fields your model needs help with.

  16. @Mormon Heretic We agree archaeologic evidence will probably satisfy most people but it will probably also be the last discipline that can be studied because of the time it takes. If you ask any archeologist they will tell you that the most important work an archaeologist does is understanding the history of the subject and then identify the correct geography. Without that work being done you are just guessing. We have the best history possible in the Book of Mormon and we have attempted to match the geography. Hopefully now the work of archaeology can be “started” in Baja California. I wish more work had been done but the peninsula of Baja California has been ignored, probably because there are no obvious ruins like central america. We hope more experts in the field of archaeology will start the process and some have approached us and are beginning that process.

    Let me be clear though, we can’t assume, like many have, that all the archaeological work has been done in Baja California and therefore because we don’t have what others want we can dismiss the geographical items that do match. To date the only argument against what we have done is related to archaeology, which hasn’t even been done yet.

    I appreciate you points about items that aren’t mentioned as arguments against a theory. Banana’s aren’t mentioned in the Bible but they are grown in Israel, there are a lot of things and places not mentioned but using that as a point of argument is futile. I prefer to focus on what is recorded in the Book of Mormon and work from that, otherwise you are arguing speculation.

  17. @Morgan

    We have tried to submit our work to the Maxwell Institute. I have presented to them many times and even prepared our articles for a pier review but they turned us down without clarification. It was very weird as we thought they would have encouraged this type of work, especially considering the credentials of my father as a professor of geography for over 40 years. We will continue to write more articles and hope they will eventually be considered for pier review.

    We have found very few people that will participate in a dialogue about the subject of the Book of Mormon geography especially using the text of the scriptures as a basis. There are many that want to discuss speculative items but it becomes futile when we wonder beyond the text of the Book of Mormon. We hope our work helps and have enjoyed your questions.

  18. Thats too bad David. I’ve had stuff rejected from them without explanation as well. It can certainly be frustrating, but the editorial board has that right. Perhaps you can try Dialogue. My paper was rejected from there too but I recieved some very constructive feedback on how to improve it and was asked to resubmit. And if I’m not mistaken, they published a short version of the Malay Theory as well.

  19. David:

    I am not asking you to explain why people did not spread from “mainland” Mexico to Baja. I’m asking you to explain why the development didn’t go the other direction.

    Similarly, I’m not seeing that what you are doing is any different in relying on the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon than anyone else is doing with Malay or Meso or any other theory. People gather internal evidence and then match it with physical places.

    Why do you believe the liahona would have defined directions other than in the conceptual framework Lehi used? Sorenson has written extensively about the direction issue from Lehi’s view. What is the basis by which you reject his analysis? It seems to involve a very rigid interpretation of the translation process for some words, but a very expansive interpretation for others, so it’s very hard to proceed forward.

  20. It is difficult to explain something for which there is no record in Book of Mormon, specifically, why didn’t the Nephities or Lamanites sail eastward to present day mainland Mexico? I have to speculate on speculation which in my opinion is somewhat futile, but since this is an important point for you I’ll share my opinion.

    The Book of Mormon people obviously lived on the west side of their land, there are numerous references to the people living on the west (Alma 22:27,29; Alma 63:5) and not so much on the east. This is probably because of the windward side of peninsula of Baja California is on west, as the winds from the Pacific come in they deposit moisture on the west side of the watershed divide. This is obvious up the entire California coast line where the windward side (west) is more fertile than the leeward side (east). This is probably why the people lived on the west side than and do so today. There are a lot more people in Los Angeles (west) than Palm Springs (east).

    In Baja California you can’t even see mainland mexico until you get up around Bahia Los Angeles (which is where the narrow neck of land is) from any mountain peek. I would have to assume they didn’t even know land existed further east. The Lord told them they had arrived on the promised land so why go further (1 Ne. 18:23). Remember the people hadn’t migrated that far north until about 50 B.C. Perhaps later on some people did travel east over the sea of Cortez, but the record does not record such an attempt.

    In reading the Jesuit record it was difficult for them to cross over the sea of cortez and it often took many attempts, maybe they tried and got frustrated and stopped trying. I don’t know and the Book of Mormon record did not record any such attempts.

    Just because the record does not speak of a specific location or feature does not preclude it from being true because it seems obvious to us today. All we can use to understand the geography of the Book of Mormon are the words in the Book of Mormon. It is difficult to physcho-analyze what they were thinking and decisions they may have made. I wish I could add more to answer your question but I don’t know.

  21. @FireTag

    You ask what is different from our “approach” than others. I believe there a couple of things that are significantly different.

    First, we approach this question from a geographers perspective. All others approach the problem from their area of expertise. For example, Sorensen is an anthropologist so he will look at more of the human and cultural things, those who are archaeologists look at it from an archaeology standpoint. I suspect a botanist would look at plants, etc. We are geographers, so we look at the geography. From what we have found no other professional geographers have analyzed the text of the Book of Mormon to identify the location. Because of this we have looked at the problem from macro level down to the micro where as an archaeologist looks at it from the micro level up to the macro. These approaches are quite different. That is why we started with landforms and climate first. We suspect archaeology (micro) will come later once the geography fully matches.

    Second, we have stated from the beginning we believe that we must plausibly match 100% of the
    assertions made in the text of the Book of Mormon. We believe we have done that and are asking for anyone to identify something in the text that doesn’t plausibly match to the geography of Baja California. Even John Clark admits that they have matched less than 60% of the assertions in the Book of Mormon to Meso-America.

    Third, we have really tried to ensure we source all our assertions to the text of the Book of Mormon, speculating on things that aren’t in the text is interesting but doesn’t really help in answering the question of where the Book of Mormon lands are.

  22. Directions become the glue in understanding the geography recorded in the Book of Mormon and what we see today. As mentioned before I don’t believe the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God to only have us re-translate all the directions by 90 degrees or five different directions. That just doesn’t make sense. I understand why Sorenson and others have created this analysis because the geography of their proposed locations just don’t match what is recorded in the Book of Mormon.

    You can look to the Bible (brass plates) and learn that ancient temples were built to our modern cardinal directions with the door of the temple facing the east (Ezek. 8:16). Temples were also important to the Book of Mormon people, in fact Nephi built the temple after the manner of Solomon’s temple (2 Ne. 5:16). We know the Nephites practiced the Law or Moses (Mosiah 12:28-29; Alma 25:15-16), probably based on what was recorded in the brass plates (Mosiah 1:3). I have conclude from this that the Nephites used the same east as the people in Lehi’s day.

    As I pointed out before the liahona was a compass that was used to define south-southeast directions in the old world, unless they reconfigured it I must assume it was the same as old world even in the new world. All of these things point to the fact they understood the cardinal directions and used them. I find nothing in the text of the Book of Mormon that suggests that they changed this “framework” after Lehi and his family arrived in the promised land.

    The strongest reason I believe east is where the sun rises and west is where the sun sets and north and south are perpendicular to that line is that it matches so well with Baja California. That is to me a very strong point.

  23. @FireTag

    We have tried very hard to use “rigid” (or exact) interpretations of words. Do you have any examples where we use “loose” interpretations of words? We have spent a lot of time understanding words especially from the standpoint of the early 1800’s when the Book of Mormon was first translated, because as you know the meaning of words can change over time.

    We have learned that words like fountain are more like pools, seas are salt water not fresh water, hills are unique not part of a range, mounts are mountains, cattle had more to do with a collection of animals than cows, chariots are more like carriages, timber is different than trees, cement is not concrete, casting up roads had more to do with clearing, beasts have four legs. All of these words need to be studied and we have tried to be exact when using them in understanding the geography.

  24. Why is Sumatra a problem? Might I remind you that Sumatra has a town called Lammeual (which sounds a lot like Lemmuel!) I do believe they sailed and settled in Sumatra. And there is evidence that they did. The Malay theory takes into account that groups left to go to Sumatra and all the other islands in the Pacific Quarter. They also went to Madascgar (proven by science that peoples left Malaysia at the time of the last battles…) and named a town Moroni at that time.

    The Malay Peninsula was north/south also… and it was narrow. The plants could have grown in Baja, but THEY WEREN’T. The plants and animals found in Baja were NOT Middle Eastern… there is NO evidence. They don’t match at all.

    The animal remains found in the La Brea tar pits were from far before Book of Mormon times. On the animal issue, there were many animals in the Americas and NONE of them were mentioned in the Book of Mormon. One example is the bison. They were so important they were used for clothing, food, shelter, they made tents, and they were almost worshipped. For them not to have been mentioned in the BofM is very convincing evidents that BofM events did NOT occur in America. Turkeys were very important food item, but they were not mentioned in the BofM. etc etc etc. Each of the plants and animals are very important arguments favoring the Malay Hypothesis over ALL of the American Hypotheses. I’ve never seen convincing evidence that wheat, barley, flax, or other Mediterranean crops were grown in America during Book of Mormon times–anywhere in America. And they did not have silk.

    If you believe scientific evidence, The Malay Hypothesis matches over 200 scientific evidences over the rest of the theories. David: what you forgot to mention about the uto-aztecan language is that the Aztecs did not reach America until 1100 AD. That is far after Book of Mormon times. But it fits in perfectly with with Malay Hypothesis because they travelled very slowly migrating from island to island across the Pacific from Malaysia.

    The odds of the Jaredites, Mulekites, and the Nephites & Lamanites all landing on Baja all the way across the Pacific is FAR LESS LIKELY that all of them ending up on the Malay Peninsula. The winds and currents do not lend themselves to traveling to a point in Baja. (and I believe the Mulekites walked–there is nothing about them building a ship)

    On the Malay Peninsula (or nearby) about a dozen places with similar names (to BofM) have been found on current maps. They haven’t found any in MesoAmerica, and if you found one in Baja, it could have been named when they arrived in America after their long journey, island hopping. What was the date it was named? Hawaii, for example, has an island named Molokai, and in the BofM there is a Muloki. They (settlers) finally reached Hawaii in 800 AD… which is an indication of how long it took to mirgrate from island to island in those ancient times. To suggest they crossed the Pacific in one trip is ridiculous. The church has claimed that the Polynesians were BofM people. They are, but they went East across the Pacific, not West.

    Joseph Smith said something like: The Book of Mormon is the most exact book we have. Leaders of the church have said that it was written for our modern time (not Joseph’s time?). When the BofM said cow, it meant cow.

    If you are interested in reading more about the Malay Hypothesis, There are links on this site, or see http://www.bookofmormonlocations.com
    I’d love to speak to you/ compare about theories.

  25. And Belize has a city called Lamonai which also sounds like a Lamanite king and has been an ancient port complete with half-sunken temples. Sound alike names just aren’t that impressive.

    Geography dictates development. The pattern of development shown by the Book of Mormon’s internal story amplifies much more about geography than from the limited directional clues in the battle histories of Captain Moroni later recorded in Alma.

    If the BofM actually took place in Baja, Mormon wouldn;’t be describing north-south migrations. He’d be describing a culture that rapidly crossed over and developed in the mainland and thereafter stopped being about the narrow penninsula.

    Similarly the Malay penninsula is always destined to be a place where coastal and interisland development is dominant to the story — not something that we grasp at an occasional reference to a ship.

  26. Based on the notion that migrating BofM people went through southern Arabia… The only evidence they have for that is finding the letters NHM mixed in with a bunch of other letters. They claim that that provides very convincing evidence that BofM people stopped there on the way to America.

    Entire books have been written that place in southern Arabia & the theory.

    Now compare that with what we are trying to do. We are trying to show that there are a dozen+ BofM names on the Malay Peninsula or nearby which clearly support the idea that Book of Mormon people lived there. And they are in reasonable locations.

    I also have not been able to obtain a peer review from FARMS/BYU etc. I have been trying to get some of them to look at my research since 1993. One PROMISED he would review it. Others have just refused to look at it. Interestingly, No one wanted to listen to Joseph Smith either –when he presented a new idea.

    IF you are most interested in geography, try comparing the Malay Peninsula to the geography in the BofM. There is a narrow neck of land, an inlet of the sea on the west for Hagoth, a Hill Maw (on current maps–in the right geographical location!). In the land southward there is a range of hills running east-west across the midsection (none in Baja), there is a river starting in the range of hills running north (not in Baja), they had very destructive east winds (Msh 7:31) (Baja is protected by east winds by a large land mass)… In Hela 3:8 it talks about Nephites spreading to all 4 seas. Because of an irregular shape Malaysia has a point, about halfway, that has 4 seas.

    At the time of the crucifiction there was a tremendous volcanic explosion with thunder and lightning and noise, flooding, earthquakes, and many lives were lost. The skies were darkened for several days. That is far more likely to have occured on the Malay Peninsula than on Baja. (tsunamis, fault line, monsoons…)

  27. Ralph,

    There is quite a bit more to NHM that your little sentence implies. Your place names need to be corroborated by a linguist to be more convincing to the public at large. Have you been able to find anyone at the nearby university to look into this?

  28. @Ralph

    Our intention has never been to disprove other theories. We made an early decision to ensure that all our assertions are based on the text of the Book of Mormon and properly sourced quotes from either Joseph Smith or Moroni. We would encourage you to pursue your studies related to the geography of the Malay Peninsula. Based on your comments I suspect you have not studied the “geography” of Baja California. For the record let me correct a number of your statements.

    There are many plants that are found in Baja California that are indigenous to the Middle East and not Mexico. For example, the date palms and grape vines found in San Ignacio, the olive trees in San Jaxier. In fact all of the plants that mentioned in the Book of Mormon are grown in Baja California today including: barley, wheat, corn, flax (linen), mulberry bushes (silk), grapes, etc. Pearls (4 Ne. 1:24) are also naturally found in the Baja California. What most people don’t know is that most of the fruits and vegetables that are consumed in the western US come from Baja California because of it’s blessed Mediterranean climate. Although it will be difficult to prove any plant existed 2000 years because plants and seeds disintegrate over time, however there is plenty of evidence of the plausibility. We only know of one archaeological find of barley in southern Arizona that was found in a cave there that pre-dates the Europeans. This is interesting in light of the migration patterns of the Uto-Aztecan people.

    Animals are another problem because most of the animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon are domesticated: cows, ox, goats, swine (pigs), horses, etc. The problem is once the people are “swept off” (Ether 2:9) so are the animals, as well as domesticated plants. It was interesting to find on our last trip that there have been a number of remains of horses, camels and elephants, that date before the Spanish arrived, found on the peninsula. Just go to any museum in Baja California and you can validate this. The animals that are not domesticated that are mentioned in the Book of Mormon such as wolves (Alma 5:59), wild goats (Enos 1:21), vultures (Alma 2:38), serpents (Ether. 9:31) and whales (Ether 6:10) are very common in Baja California and have been for thousands of years.

    It is true that Bison did roam the plains of North America but we have never suggested the Book of Mormon lands are in the plains of North America, our assertion is the Baja Peninsula which has no evidence of Bison today or even hundreds of years ago. So, as you pointed out we would not suspect Bison would be mentioned. It is difficult to comment on speculation of things not mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

    Our assertion is the Uto-Aztecan family of Native Americans was formed after the destruction of the Nephite Civilization (~400 A.D.) when there were seven families that warred one with another: Nephites, Jacobites, Josephites, Zoramites, Lamanites, Lemuelites and Ishmaelites (Mormon 1:8). It is amazing that there are also seven groups in the Uto-Aztecan language as well (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uto-Aztecan_languages). That is why the Aztecan group did not really appear until hundreds of years after this. Even Hugh Nibley believed the Hopi were descendants of the Book of Mormon people because of their similar culture and legends. We suspect many are enamored with Meso-America because of the similar cultural elements that match the Book of Mormon record, even though the geography doesn’t. Like the Jews who were scattered from their homeland in Israel, we suspect the descendants of the Book of Mormon people were also scattered away from their homeland and we assert that this scattering can be seen in the migrations of the Uto-Aztecan people. There are many legends (codecs) that suggest the aztecs come from an island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aztlán). Again we suspect this to be accurate as California and Baja California where once believed to be an island up until the early 1800’s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Island_of_California). Even the the Book of Mormon people believed they were on an “isolated” location (2 Ne. 10:20).

    Your suggestion that the north pacific ocean currents and wind would not provided an easy route to travel from the old world to the new world has no basis. This route was used hundreds of times by Spanish galleons and continues to be used by sailing vessels today. The reason Baja California was settled by the Europeans before California is because of the ocean currents. Baja California is the point where the currents take you when following those trade winds. I think you need to study ocean currents more before making the claim that the currents do not lead to Baja California.

    Using modern place names are interesting but I think it is important to look at the history of the place name and make sure it matches what is recorded in the Book of Mormon before assuming too much. We have limited our efforts in this study because we don’t have enough history. If you enjoy this type of study though you can study the terms “laimon” or “laymon” and you will find that was the name the native americans identified themselves as when the Jesuits first arrived in Baja California in 1698. Soon after arriving though the Jesuits renamed this group to “cochimi” probably in a similar manner that others called us “mormons” today even though that isn’t are official name.

    One of the premises for us focusing on North America comes from the direct quote of Moroni when he stated “there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent” (JS-H 1:34). Because he was talking to Joseph Smith in New York we have assumed “this continent” refers to North America. We believe if anyone knew where the Book of Mormon lands were it would Moroni.

  29. @FireTag

    We believe the Book of Mormon record suggests that the people remained were they landed and over time migrated from the south to the north (Hel. 3:8). Your assumption is based on information we don’t have. According to the record they remained where they landed for many centuries. They did not mention about another land until they got to the land of desolation, again hundreds of years after they landed. All of they migrations of northward are not recorded and only mentioned that people when northward. It appears from the record they migrated northward not eastward across the east sea. I believe that migration pattern lends itself to more of peninsula shaped land that is oriented north to south, not unlike Baja California. I don’t know how to speculate on things that are not recorded in the Book of Mormon.

  30. @Ralph

    All typhoons in Baja California come from the east as the storms gain energy from the gulf of California. I suspect that is why the people feared the east wind.

  31. David:

    I’ll deal with the volcanic evidence in my own blog eventually. I may even track typhoons. Let me say that MESO can see and raise Baja on both counts, including the timing and specific effects.

    However, you seem to be very selective in where you attach Book of Mormon evidence to “real world”. The reason for believing the Jaredite linage is much older than a couple of thousand years is the clear DNA and geophysical evidence that the America’s were peopled on the order of 20K years ago and the clear gaps MISSING in the various lineages listed in Ether 1. The flood was a long time ago. The “tower of Babel” tradition is much more recent. No matter what explanation one wishes to use to link them, there is a great deal not recorded in Ether. So, ignoring the gap is likely to lead to wrong answers.

  32. @FireTag

    The mention of typhoons and volcanos in Baja California was not to suggest it was the only place these things occurred. Many people ask what the most compelling evidence is that Baja California is the location of the Book of Mormon lands? My response is simple, there isn’t one or even ten, but rather it is the correlation of everything asserted in the Book of Mormon can be plausibly found in Baja California that is most compelling. Even John Clark acknowledges that less than 60% of the assertions made in the Book of Mormon can be correlated with Meso-America. I encourage people to keep looking and searching wherever it may be. I don’t look at this like a contest or a “poker” game. I believe we can learn things from all theories. The main thing I try to do is tie our assumptions back to the Book of Mormon record.

  33. @FireTag It is true there are gaps in Ether 1 between Riplakish and Morianton as well as Heth and Aaron. I don’t know how many “descendants” are in between, but I suspect there at most a handful— even a son is a “descendant” of his father. But I do believe the Jared and his descendants arrived in North America sometime prior to 2000 B.C. which correlates with the number of descendants that are recorded in the book of Ether and the approximate time of their destruction which I estimate between 300 to 200 B.C. (Omni 1:21).

    Your question, I believe, revolves around what about the evidence that others populated North America before the Jaredites arrived? I’m not an expert in this area but I do believe there were others in North America before Jared and his brother and their friends arrived. You are correct the scriptures do not provide enough information to every question, especially the book of Ether. As Mormon Heretic has pointed out the scriptures are given for a theological purpose not an historical, so all we can read are small parts of history intertwined in the “gospel” message. Let me suggest there are a couple of things in the scriptures that shed some light on your question.

    We know from modern revelation that Adam and Eve dwelt in the area around Missouri, which Joseph Smith identified as Adam-ondi-aman (D&C 116:1; 117). There were only 10 generations from Adam to Noah (Gen. 5) and there are no accounts of spreading across the seas in the biblical record except for Noah (Gen. 7-8). I have to assume from this Noah probably launched from North America when the floods came. It is interesting to study the length of time it took Noah to arrive at Mt. Ararat from his original homeland. The bible states that Noah and his family traveled for at least 150 days, probably 165 days (Gen. 7:11,24; 8:4). Using an approximate drift rate of 2 to 3 miles per hour (which is typical for non sailing vessels, especially if there are winds involved, Gen. 8:1) you can estimate that Noah may have traveled in the range of about 6,000 miles during that time. Remember that in the northern hemisphere the ocean currents move in a clockwise rotation which would suggest that he could have been traveling east. Given those assumptions and working backwards from Mt. Ararat in Turkey you get to a plausible location in North America. During those 10 generations before Noah there would have been many people who populated the land. Is it possible that the evidence we find of earlier inhabitants in North America could be those before Noah? I don’t know, but it’s worth asking the question.

  34. David,

    While your analysis is interesting, I think it is highly problematic to assume Noah launched from North America. The Bible is very much a Middle Eastern record–it does not seem to represent history in North America very well at all. I know what Joseph Smith said about Adam-ondi-Ahman, but I guess I lean against the idea of a worldwide flood and lean more toward a large localized flood. The science just doesn’t support a worldwide flood very well.

  35. I will be the first to concur we don’t have enough information to understand the flood story. I don’t believe there was a “worldwide” flood nor am I suggest one. That would require the addition of a lot of water and then the removal of an equal amount. My thoughts are based more on a localized flood or a “sloshing” effect of the water that did exist on the earth. I have often wondered what would happen to the water on the earth if a large object where to come close and pull and disturb the tides causing flooding and disruption to the waters, much like the effect of the moon. I’m only speculating trying to triangulate the many accounts and what is scientifically possible. Remember the Moroni recorded “that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land” (Ether 13:2). If they were receding what were they receding from. I assume the flood. The Basin and Range of North America is an interesting phenomena that may play into this question.

    I know the Bible is a Middle Eastern record but remember the record of the flood we have wasn’t written by Noah it was written by Moses through revelation (Moses 1:1). Therefore I don’t believe because the words were recorded in the Middle East the events also had to take place there.

  36. David, that’s an interesting perspective. I’ve been recently listening to some Yale University classes (for free) regarding the Bible. They are fascinating. The teacher illustrates that many of the stories in the Bible (flood, creation, etc) bear remarkable similarities to Babylonian tales. I don’t know if you saw my post asking Did Moses Copy Hammurabi’s 10 Commandments? While you are correct that Moses could have had it revealed to him and the flood could have occurred in America, I find that it seems more likely that the flood was more likely an event recorded by many other peoples in the Middle East. There just seems to be too much evidence supporting a Middle Eastern setting IMO.

  37. I try to look at all historical information from as many different angles as possible. I don’t want to suggest they are conclusive but provided to ask questions and push the envelope of understanding.

    I think the reason there are so many more “flood” accounts in the Middle East is because that is where Noah landed. His descendants would have recorded this and thus the focal point. However, based on the time Noah was on the water it theoretically has a range of 7,000 miles. In the same way the range a fugitive can run is based on the amount of time they have been running.

    One of the reasons I believe it was somewhat localized is based on the covenant that the Lord made with Noah that he would not destroy the inhabitant’s of the earth again in a similar manner. Reading from Gen. 9:9-10.

    9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
    10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.

    It is interesting to note only the human’s on the ark (Noah and his descendants) are included in the covenant, whereas the beasts of the earth are bracketed “from all that go out of the ark” (those that are on the ark) “to every beast of the earth” (those that aren’t on the ark). Why would the Lord include these two different groups of animals in the covenant. There must have been “beasts” (mammals) that survived the flood somewhere on the earth to be included.

  38. @David Rosenvall
    Two brief comments (speculation on speculation on speculation):

    1) Alma 22:34 mentions the Nephites made sure they were always in the north and the lamanites in the south so that “they might have a country whither they might flee, according to their desires.” (i.e since the lamanites were “trapped” by surrounding oceans) Which I think reinforces what David is saying regarding the Nephites interest (or lack thereof) in other places beyond their “promised land”. Basically, they were aware of options, but made a conscious decision not to go. Since they decided not even to go northwards, which is much easier than building a ship and sailing to a coast they cannot see, then it seems that their lack of interest and attempts at sailing the sea of cortez is in alignment with the text.

    2) I think the special reference to Hagoth in the BOM, which we know was limited to essential details only, also reinforces that the Nephites were not typically seafaring, post-landing.

  39. @Dan U I agree with your conclusion and logic. There was obviously some compelling reason for the Nephites to protect the northern lands and try to “hem-in” the Lamanites (Alma 22: 33) even when they must have had other options. The question then becomes: How do your protect any entire area unless there is some type of landform to help you? It is very difficult to protect even a hundred mile “front-line”, which is one of the reasons I think that a day and a half journey is about 50 miles (Alma 22:32). You can see from the scriptures that they focused on the “pass by the sea” (Alma 50:34) and the “narrow passage” (Alma 52: 9; Morm. 3: 5) which are both located in the narrow neck of land. I would suggest that the area was fairly mountainous, thus the identification of “passes,” making it easier to defend just these constricted points. Remember also the Nephites where much fewer in number (Mosiah 25: 2-3).

  40. I am interested in the discussion, but I am frustrated by your poor typography and your careless spelling ( i.e. ‘ Occums Razor ‘ for ‘ Occam’s Razor ‘. Really, you should pay more attention to these points , take more time with the typing , and proofread what you have typed . Some of your sentences make no sense because of this. Making everything clear is the job of the writer, not the reader.

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