A Review of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (Part 1)

Part 1 ⎜Part 2Part 3APart 3bPart 3CPart 3D Part 3E Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Postscript

Introduction

Review of David R. Hocking and Rodney L. Meldrum, eds., Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah: Digital Legend Publishing, 2018). 583 pp. $69.95 (hardcover).

Preface

Readers of this blog know that I have not made my disapproval of the so-called Heartland theory for Book of Mormon geography a secret. I have blogged about the failings of the Heartland theory on multiple occasions (see for instance here, here, and here). Last year the FIRM Foundation and Digital Legends Publishing released the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (AEBOM). The AEBOM is, from what I have heard, selling well. It appears to be popular among Latter-day Saints. It is also apparent that a lot of time and effort went into its production. 

While the AEBOM may be popular, it is also deeply and fundamentally problematic.

What follows is a series reviewing the AEBOM. This review was originally conceived as an article for the journal Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. Over time, however, my co-authors (Matthew Roper, Neal Rappleye, and Jasmin Gimenez Rappleye) and I decided it would work better as a series instead of a single review. I was (and am) happy to host the series on my blog.

This series will consist of the following:

As each portion gets posted (two a day, morning and afternoon, from June 1–7, 2019), I will be sure to include hyperlinks to the previous posts so that readers can hop in and out of any part of the review that strikes their interest.

With all of that said, I now present a critical review of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon. Let me again thank my friends and colleagues Matt, Neal, and Jasmin for their help in this project.

❊ ❊ ❊

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes no official stance on the geography of the Book of Mormon.1 “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible,” reads the introduction to the Church’s official 2013 edition of the Book of Mormon. “It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.” As the introduction goes on to further read, 

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians. 

Beyond this, no particular geography model for Book of Mormon events has received an official endorsement from the Church. Such has not stopped Church leaders and members from freely discussing where they believe the events described in the Book of Mormon took place. Nor has it stopped them from mustering arguments for, variously, a hemispheric, Great Lakes, Central American, South American, or continental United States (“heartland”) setting for the Book of Mormon.2 While John Sorenson’s Mesoamerican model remains the favored theory for most credentialed scholars writing on Book of Mormon historicity and geography,3 several independent researchers associated with the so-called Heartland movement have put forth arguments attempting to establish a geography of the Book of Mormon in the continental United States.4 

The leading proponent of the Heartland model is Rod Meldrum of the FIRM Foundation (Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism). Meldrum’s latest attempt to situate the events of the Book of Mormon in the “heartland” of the United States has been undertaken with David R. Hocking, a microbiologist and publisher, in the form of the recently released Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (AEBOM).5 According to one description, “The Annotated Book of Mormon has been created to help readers understand the everlasting gospel as explained in the text, together with what the modern prophets and apostles have taught about it.” What’s more, the AEBOM attempts to act as a “text book [sic] for those that want more in-depth understanding of the people, places and events that shape the narrative.”

The AEBOM includes “illustrations, images, maps and prophetic statements that support the proposition that the ancestors of the ‘Indians that now inhabit this country’ [supposedly the United States] closely fits the time frames and events described in the Book of Mormon. As such, their identity is an additional witness of the divine authenticity of the text.” Thus, the self-proclaimed purpose of the AEBOM is to vindicate the Heartland theory and thereby establish the historicity and divinity of the Book of Mormon.

Astonishingly, the editors of the AEBOM deny any intention to “establish a specific geography” for the Book of Mormon (x). However, pages of annotations, images, maps, and commentary make this claim impossible to believe. It is plainly obvious that the ultimate goal of the AEBOM is to demonstrate the Book of Mormon is a pre-Columbian record of North America’s “heartland.” 

While the editors of the AEBOM may be sincere in their desire to vindicate the Book of Mormon, the book, unfortunately, suffers from numerous inaccuracies, embellishments, fallacies, dubious and unsubstantiated claims, selective use of evidence, parallelomania, presentism, false claims, and pseudo-scientific and pseudo-scholarly claims.6 These substantive problems with the AEBOM fundamentally compromise any usefulness it might have as a serious, reliable, or credible aid for studying the Book of Mormon. Readers should be aware that a substantial number of the claims made in the AEBOM are questionable at best and outright false at worst. They should, accordingly, not put uncritical trust in the AEBOM, and should in fact be suspicious of the majority of its claims. 

The categories we have formulated for the kinds of problems we have identified in the AEBOM include: forgeries, unprovenanced artifacts, and pseudo-archaeology; misrepresentations of historical sources; parallelomania; unsubstantiated claims and arguments; the abuse of DNA science; and miscellaneous errors. The remainder of this review will provide a non-exhaustive analysis of some of the more egregious examples of each category to sufficiently demonstrate our contention that the claims made in the AEBOM should be met first and foremost with skepticism.

In a word, the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon is bad. Really bad. 

  1. See “Book of Mormon Geography,” Gospel Topics; see also John E. Clark, “Book of Mormon Geography,” in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1992), 1:176: “Church leadership officially and consistently distances itself from issues regarding Book of Mormon geography.”
  2. For various models, see John L. Sorenson, The Geography of Book of Mormon Events: A Source Book, rev. ed. (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1992).
  3. See John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1985); Mormon’s Codex: An Ancient American Book (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2013).
  4. Michael De Groote, “The fight over Book of Mormon geography,” Deseret News, May 27, 2010.
  5. Citations of the AEBOM shall henceforth appear in the body of the review.
  6. Some of the language and structure of this review has been drawn from the “Executive Summary of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon,” online at Book of Mormon Central. The authors involved with this current review series were the principle authors of Book of Mormon Central’s executive summary of the AEBOM.

36 thoughts on “A Review of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (Part 1)”

  1. We have perhaps 50 editions of the Book of Mormon in the Book of Mormon Central research library, including the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon (AEBOM). In my opinion, the AEBOM is the worst edition of the text ever published. I advise all to avoid it. As the summum bonum of the heartland pretense, the AEBOM selectively mis-interprets the Nephite text, selectively mis-represents Joseph Smith and his contemporaries, and selectively mis-uses science. The result is beyond bad because it is so seductively mis-leading.

  2. Having reviewed a previous work by Meldrum which attempts to scientifically defend his “Heartland” model, I am unsurprised:

    https://publications.mi.byu.edu/fullscreen?pub=1466&index=5

    I read every single paper cited by Meldrum in his previous book. Virtually all of them he had misunderstood and misrepresented. He even made mistakes that, had he gotten correct, would have supported his model. So he apparently did not understand the first thing about what he was opining.

    A classic case of the “blind leading the blind.”

    • I hear/read clains of items missed, taken out of context our misapplied, but examples to back up the claims or did I miss something?

  3. Thank you for taking on this project, Stephen. The Heartland hoax has drawn far too many unsuspecting Latter-day Saints into its wake, and they deserve to be warned about its false premises, poor reasoning, and irresponsible “scholarship.”

    Captain Hook and I wish you the best in your endeavor.

    —Peter @ NevilleNevilleLand.com

  4. First, thanks for a great article.

    You state that AEBOM denies “any intention to ‘establish a specific geography’ for the Book of Mormon”. Yet it is clear that Meldrum AND BMC do clearly endorse a specific location. No? Besides AEBOM’s apparent lack of creditability and scholarship, how is their not-so-implicit geographical insistence different from BMC’s?

    Best,
    Mike Harris
    Orem, Utah

    • Hi Mike,

      The difference, I believe, is twofold. First, BMC will highlight and actually has highlighted relevant data from North America as well as Central America when it comes to analyzing the Book of Mormon. In our KnoWhys on barley in the Book of Mormon and grapes/vineyards in the Book of Mormon (as well as the “scorched with faggots” KnoWhy, I believe), we have drawn from evidence from North America.

      In other words, BMC is happy to recognize legitimate evidence from North America when it surfaces.

      The other difference is we do not claim some kind of revealed, prophetic geography for our claims. This is a foundational claim in the Heartland movement: that Joseph Smith knew by revelation where Book of Mormon events took place (in the “Heartland”), and that things like the location of the Hill Cumorah (in New York) and the identity of Lamanites (Native Americans in the continental United States) are matters of prophetic revelation which the Heartlanders are sole custodians of. Anyone who disagrees with them are therefore casting the prophets aside (this is the incessant talking point of Rod Meldrum and Jonathan Neville in particular).

      BMC has never questioned the faithfulness of people who don’t agree with our geography. We have long sustained the Church’s position that Book of Mormon geography is not revealed, and so nobody is beholden to our theories or arguments.

      This is also why I find the claim in the AEBOM that the editors are not “trying to establish a specific geography” is more than a little specious.

      Hope this clarifies things. Thanks for your question and comment.

  5. Watch the three hour YouTube video on the DNA of the Indians eastern US. Only other location in the world with the same DNA markers is in the Israel area. How do you explain that away? Eastern US and South and Central American Indians do not have the Jewish DNA markers. Science doesn’t lie.

    • Hi Kent,

      Be sure to check out Part 6 (“The Abuse of DNA Science”) of my review when it gets posted next week.

      There is extensive literature disproving Meldrum’s attempts to use DNA to prove a “heartland” setting for the Book of Mormon. His work is the worst kind of pseudo-science. I review this literature and Meldrum’s claims in the AEBOM in my forthcoming post.

    • Hi Kent,

      As Stephen noted, the claims made about DNA by advocates of the Heartland are spurious, and he has a later installment that will illustrate this. But it seems worth clarifying that (a) it is not “Jewish DNA markers.” Haplogroup X is not “Jewish DNA,” though it is found in some Middle Eastern populations; and (b) it’s actually false to say that Central American Indians do not have the marker. Haplogroup X was reported in the Maya in 2011.

      It does not really matter, since haplogroup X cannot possibly have anything to do with the Book of Mormon, as Stephen’s later post will illustrate (though the point has been demonstrated numerous times before). But the point is, if a person really wishes to ignore all the problems with that correlation, then this still is not a point in favor of the Heartland, because that same DNA actually shows up in Mesoamerica as well.

    • Kent,
      You have been deceived by a charlatan peddling nonsense. Heartlanders blather about haplogroup X. The truth is all native American X lineages yet identified are subclade X2a. 9,000 year old Kennewick Man from Washington state is basal (earliest known ancestor) to all X2a lineages in the Americas. See Nature Vol. 523 (23 July, 2015) pp. 455-458 “The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man”. And who is basal to Kennewick Man? Both the 17,000 year old Afontova Gora-2 and the 24,000 year old MA-1 individuals from the Lake Baikal region of south central Siberia. See Nature Vol. 505 (02 January, 2014) pp. 87-91 “Upper Paleolithic Siberian genome reveals dual ancestry of Native Americans.”

      How reliable is Nature? It is the #1 rated journal on the planet with a 2017 impact factor of 41.577. Who does the 2015 Nature article quote? Ugo Perego, a faithful Latter-day Saint who is one of the most respected population geneticists on earth. What else did Ugo Perego write? The Gospel Topic essay entitled “Book of Mormon and DNA Studies” published on the Church’s official website. Good science doesn’t intentionally lie.

  6. Stephen Smoot wrote: “While John Sorenson’s Mesoamerican model remains the favored theory for most credentialed scholars writing on Book of Mormon historicity and geography, 3.”

    I anticipated footnote 3 would offer some backup for the claim that preceded it. Instead it is just a citation for Sorenson’s book.

    I guess I’ll continue to wonder about the breakdown of so-called credentialed scholars who happen to write on Book of Mormon historicity and geography.

    • Brad,

      The point of the footnote was to inform readers of Sorenson’s work for those who not have encountered it before.

      But if you’d like to know some of the scholars I’m thinking about, immediately off the top of my head I can think of: Mark Alan Wright, Brant Gardner, Kerry Hull, and John Clark. All of these men have graduate degrees in Mesoamerican anthropology and archaeology and follow Sorenson’s model in broad strokes (i.e. a limited geography for the Book of Mormon in Central America that sees points of cultural and chronological convergence between the ancient Maya and Book of Mormon peoples).

      To my knowledge, Rod Meldrum’s “heartland” theory enjoys no such support from credentialed Latter-day Saint anthropologists and archaeologists.

      • Wright, Gardner, Hull, and Clark are a good start. I would add V. Garth Norman and F. Richard Hauck, both professional archaeologists with advanced degrees in anthropology. Then I would add Richard Terry, recently retired from the Environmental Science faculty at BYU. With a PhD in Soil Science, he worked for decades with some of the luminaries of Mesoamerican archaeology (Houston, Inomata, Chase, Sheets) doing the soil analysis on their digs.

  7. >” Smmt wrote…While John Sorenson’s Mesoamerican model remains the favored theory for most credentialed scholars writing on Book of Mormon historicity and geography,3″<

    I wasted 40 dollars on Mormons Codex (Kindle) , a major disappointment given the hype. It read as a series of ifs and buts, while ignoring any established archeology of established civilizations, and even established theory by LGT author, Brant Gardner.

    If this book, for 70 dollars is as bad as you conclude, and Sorenson's model is favored by credentialed scholars, whom ever they may be…then wow.

    It appears to me that both theories, given today's knowledge and science of both the geography and people that lived in each area, starts with a preconceived forced conclusion, and then works backwards while completely ignoring the established evidences available.

    The one thing that the LGT will never have, that the HLT has, is years of teachings and the hardy confidence by past LDS prophets and apostles, as a given, that North America's was indeed the land of the BoM folks, especially in the latter years.

    Both theories lack any real tangible evidence, but at least one, the HLT, is consistent with the teachings of key LDS prophets like Joseph Smith and SWK on the subject. To erase the HLT is to cast doubt of what these men actually believed and taught, in regards to the BoM lands and peoples.

    • I suggest you wait until part 3 of my review before you start confidently declaring what prophets have taught about Book of Mormon geography.

  8. I look forward to reading your take on what was taught. Don’t forget to include the mound builder teachings, we were taught in SS, and in firesides, in the late 60’s” and 70’s.

    You might also want to include a paragraph or two on the “adopt a Lamanite” program that we, our ward and stake, were active in. I can share about my friend “Henry” that lived with a family in our ward for a summer, and was openly “known” to be a Lamanite. He and his birth family lived on a reservation in Arizona.

    Of the different NA’s that were “adopted” to ward members from the program, I do not recall any being from central America, maybe you have some research on that.

    I look forward to reading part 3, thanks.

    • Markk,

      The Church’s Indian Placement Program tells us nothing by way of doctrine about the descendants of Laman. As you pointed out (even if unintentionally), Latter-day Saints from Joseph Smith’s time have believed that all native peoples in North and South America are Lamanites (something that was expanded in the late nineteenth century to include Pacific Islanders).

      Mesoamericanists also believe this, due to the way DNA works: Even if Lehi landed in Central America, his DNA (although undetectable today) would be found among all Native Americans in both continents.

      Native Americans inside the United States and throughout the western hemisphere are Lamanites, whether Lehi landed in Chile, El Salvador, or Florida.

      — Peter @ NevilleNevilleLand.com

  9. Thanks Stephen. I look forward to Part III.

    I hope you’ll address the overwhelming belief among members/leaders of the Church that the “promised land” mentioned in the BoM is the United States. If you have time please address a few of the statements by our leaders regarding this.

    “The United States is the promised land foretold in the Book of Mormon—a place where divine guidance directed inspired men to create the conditions necessary for the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Elder L. Tom Perry https://www.lds.org/study/ensign/2012/12/the-tradition-of-light-and-testimony?lang=eng

  10. Peter Pan wrote…”Native Americans inside the United States and throughout the western hemisphere are Lamanites, whether Lehi landed in Chile, El Salvador, or Florida.”

    How do you know that? Beyond faith, what is the basis for your assertion that Native Americans are Lamanites?

  11. Just so I understand your method of research. Is it fair to say that you are working backwards from a preconceived conclusion, based only on your faith that the BoM is real History of a real people, instead of gathering the tangible data that is available, and letting it tell us who the folks are and then see if the tangible evidences compliment your faith?

    DNA aside, what gives you confidence that there were Very Jewish Folks in the America’s, whether in the HL or a small area in Mesoamerica? We know there was a Charles the Great with a fair amount of surety, how do you know there was a Lehi, other than by faith?

    Thanks

    • Markk,

      There is a significant number of ancient historical figures for whom we have no contemporary historical evidence that they existed, and only a single source from decades or centuries after they lived. Examples of well-known historical figures who may not have existed include Socrates, Pythagoras, Homer, and Lycurgus of Sparta.

      Add to that figures for whom the Hebrew Bible is the only source that mentions them: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph of Egypt, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Even the evidence for David himself is scanty; some ancient artifacts with his name on them have been uncovered, but that’s not evidence the man himself existed.

      Lehi would be be in the same group as all of these Old Testament figures. We have no evidence for his existence outside of the Book of Mormon.

      — Peter @ NevilleNevilleLand.com

  12. From: The Annotated Book of Mormon Editors Team;

    It has been with keen interest that the editors of the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon have watched the non-stop litany of attacks frantically being hurled at the Heartland Geographic theory over the past few years and now the latest target found worthy of the heavy artillery is the Annotated Edition of the Book of Mormon. While this type of response is not surprising, we are, at times taken aback by the strident language employed by our fellow Elders in the Gospel. Be that as it may, we appreciate the amount of work they have undertaken to bring our work to the attention of the public. Joseph Smith once commented: “… yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me” (JSH 1:22). In saying this, we do not mean to suggest that our small editorial project is anything on the order of what Joseph was called upon to do, but the comparison is worth noting.

    As brother Smoot correctly points out in his introduction, our book has seen very brisk sales since the arrival of the first 5,000 copies on Sept 22nd 2018, which sold out in less than two weeks. The second printing arrived just prior to Christmas, and those sales have continued to surge despite the protracted efforts by brother Smoot and his colleagues to have it banned from Deseret Book and then failing that, throwing everything shy of the kitchen sink at it.

    Despite those efforts, positive reviews in the form of e-mail, on-line postings, in-person comments and phone calls to the publisher come in on an almost daily basis. Many of the book’s most ardent supporters hail from the highest ranks of Church leadership. While it would be tempting to list them by name, suffice it to say that everyone reading this blog would easily recognize their names. Also among the book’s most loyal supporters are many of the less-well-known but equally salt-of-the-earth rank-and-file leadership, such as a wide swath of current and former mission presidents, stake presidents, temple presidents, Bishops, CES and Institute people, as well as many ordinary run-of-the-mill Church members. While it is true, the mere acceptance and readership by leaders and lay-people is not in itself a validation of all the claims found in the book, it is an indication that the Spirit has not raised red-flags of concern for these doctrinally-proven and time-tested Latter-day Saint leaders and members is worthy of note.

    In his introduction, brother Smoot seems to take exception to one particular aspect of the book’s introductory remarks. He says the following:

    Astonishingly, the editors of the AEBOM deny any intention to “establish a specific geography” for the Book of Mormon (x). However, pages of annotations, images, maps, and commentary make this claim impossible to believe. It is plainly obvious that the ultimate goal of the AEBOM is to demonstrate the Book of Mormon is a pre-Columbian record of North America’s “heartland.”

    To this we reply, yes, we do include several “suggested” locations for possible geographic settings, but we do not attempt to “establish” a specific geography for every city, land feature, body of water, etc. mentioned in the Book of Mormon. What we do instead is attempt to establish one unassailable “pin-in-the-map.” One place where the Book of Mormon narrative and Church history actually come together. It is our belief that if one common point can be established somewhere in the western Hemisphere, a point that is irrefutable and irreducible, then it might be possible, from that one pin, to begin to earnestly try to discover and map other possible geographic verities. Without at least one point that is fixed and verifiable, we do not think it is possible to ever establish any kind of real world placement for the events described in the Book of Mormon.

    So to be clear, the text in the introduction on page to which brother Smoot is referring (page x) actually reads:

    “The intent is not to establish a comprehensive geography. Apart from the location of the Hill Cumorah in New York, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as well as leaders of other denominations that accept the Book of Mormon as scripture, have declined to correlate Book of Mormon sites with modern locations. It is left to individuals to do their own research and reach their own conclusions. In 1929, Anthony W. Ivins, counselor in the First Presidency, added, “There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question [of overall Book of Mormon geography]…We are just waiting until we discover the truth” – Conference Report [April 1929], 16.”

    We agree with President Ivins on this point, that for the overall detail geography and mapping of the book of Mormon there is nothing that definitively settles that question. And we acknowledge that fact in that statement. However, we also agree with President Ivins, when he says in the next quote (which follows the above paragraph on page x also).

    “Regarding the Hill Cumorah, however, Church leaders have consistently taught the New York setting. President Ivins himself made this distinction when he discussed the location of Cumorah in General Conference in April 1928, shortly after the Church had purchased the Hill Cumorah near Palmyra, NY. “It was here that two once-powerful nations were exterminated so far as their national existence was concerned. It was here that these nations gathered together for the last great struggles…all of the sacred records of the Nephite people, were deposited by Mormon in that hill.” (Improvement Era [June 1928]; see also “Celebration of the Purchase of the Hill Cumorah,” p. 442.)”

    President Nelson has said that it has long been his practice to place a period or exclamation point rather than a question mark after the words of prophets. As editors of the Annotated Book of Mormon we have sought to follow his lead in that respect. Therefore, by placing an exclamation point rather than a question mark after President Ivin’s statement along with the many other Apostolic statements and their respective exclamation points which are referenced on pages x-xiii it is quite impossible (for us) to separate the actual Book of Mormon Cumorah from the New York Cumorah which was identified by Joseph Smith by name as early as 1827 (even before he received and translated the plates).

    We look forward to the future installments from our good friends at Book of Mormon Central. They have done an admirable job of peer-review and constructive criticism of our work, for which we are grateful. Peer review is a proven and effective means of improving research findings and documentation, citations, etc. This excellent criticism is being taken into account by all of the editors on this project and serves as a gauge by which we measure our accuracy and academic compliance. One of the nice things about rapid book sales is the opportunity it affords us to issue newly printed editions that will feature many amendments, corrections, enhancements, improvements and overall enrichment of our research and its supporting data (which we are finding in abundance).

    As the time for our third printing of 10,000 more copies draws near, we have to say that the release of this critical peer-review is indeed very timely. Perhaps it may be said that we are guilty of not expressing our sincere appreciation for the hours and hours of counter-intelligence being conducted in behalf of our publication by our colleagues at Book of Mormon Central, and so to that we unitedly declare: Thank you! Thank you and thank you again!

    Sincerely,

    The Annotated Book of Mormon Editors Team

  13. Dear Annotated Book of Mormon Editors Team,

    How would you respond to those that claim that your editors/team and their findings lack academic credentials? (Elder Ballard and Elder Cook recently stressed the importance of academic creditability. See references below.)

    Also, if faithful Latter-day Saints believe in two Cumorah’s, would you consider them placing question marks on prophetic statements instead of exclamation marks?

    Thank you for addressing this important issue.

    Best,
    Mike R. Harris
    Utah Valley Institute of Religion, Instructor

    Elder Ballard see https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/m-russell-ballard_questions-and-answers/
    Elder Cook see https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/broadcasts/face-to-face/cook?lang=eng

  14. Good counsel from Elder Ballard’s recent talk mentioned above. He said:

    As we begin to consider some of your questions, it is important to remember that I am a General Authority, but that does not make me an authority in general!

    My calling and life experiences allow me to respond to certain types of questions. There are other types of questions that require an expert in a specific subject matter. This is exactly what I do when I need an answer to such questions: I seek help from others, including those with degrees and expertise in such fields.

    I worry sometimes that members expect too much from Church leaders and teachers—­expecting them to be experts in subjects well beyond their duties and responsibilities. The Lord called the apostles and prophets to invite ­others to come unto Christ—not to obtain advanced degrees in ancient history, biblical studies, and other fields that may be useful in answering all the questions we may have about scriptures, history, and the Church. Our primary duty is to build up the Church, teach the doctrine of Christ, and help those in need of help.

    Fortunately the Lord provided this counsel for those asking questions: Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of ­wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

    If you have a question that requires an expert, please take the time to find a thoughtful and qualified expert to help you. There are many on this campus and elsewhere who have the degrees and expertise to respond and give some insight to most of these types of questions.

  15. EditorsDLP wrote:

    “While it is true, the mere acceptance and readership by leaders and lay-people is not in itself a validation of all the claims found in the book, it is an indication that the Spirit has not raised red-flags of concern for these doctrinally-proven and time-tested Latter-day Saint leaders and members is worthy of note.”

    The fact that a certain portion of believing latter-day Saints have favorable opinions about non-doctrinal information shouldn’t be used to tacitly imply that that information is in harmony with the Spirit (i.e. that the Spirit approves of such views because it does not raise “red-flags of concern” about them). This rationale will only lead to spiritual confusion.

  16. Peter,

    I can talk hours on tangible reasons, a basis, to have faith in most Biblical figures. And we can discuss problems I certainly can not answer.

    Your are correct, there is no tangible evidence for the BoM…other than that of the Joseph Smith story. The point I am trying to make is this…both the LGT and the HLT, begin with a preconceived faith, with no tangible basis for that faith. In other words as an example, I know there was a Nile river and by faith I can believe their was a Mose’s. We have oral tradition that is very tangible, and even different faiths with Moses as a figure. There is not doubt there was a PH, a Temple, and the Temple had the very things like a Holy of Holies, Behma seat and other specifications as told in the Books of Moses. Don’t get me wrong, I believe there was a Moses by faith, but right or wrong, there is a tangible evidence and basis for my faith.

    With Lehi, and all other American figures in the BoM…there is not tangible evidences that compliment the story or provide a tangible basis for ones faith. And further to my point, the LGT and the HLT take that preconceived assumption, and force into an environment that contradicts the BoM story at almost every level.

    Thanks for the discussion

    • Markk wrote:

      “With Lehi, and all other American figures in the BoM…there is not tangible evidences that compliment the story or provide a tangible basis for ones faith. And further to my point, the LGT and the HLT take that preconceived assumption, and force into an environment that contradicts the BoM story at almost every level.”

      I strenuously disagree with your conclusions—both that there is no tangible evidences for the Book of Mormon and that a LGT [limited geography theory; I don’t know what an “HLT” is] “contradicts the BoM story at almost every level.” And I would assert that there is a mountain of evidence, especially from the last 35 years, that rejects your claim.

      But without knowing what you have and have not read on these subjects, it’s difficult to have a conversation about it. Suffice it to say that much has been written by educated, trained scholars that refutes your position.

      Kind regards,

      — Peter @ NevilleNevilleLand.com

  17. HLT is short for “Heartland Theory.

    I am not sure why you need to know what I have read…I believe that my assertions were clear.

    The most logical place to start with either theory is the BoM, and we can simply pick a location in either north America, or Mesoamerica and see whether or not that particular area, city, or persons, in the specific time required, compliment the BoM narrative.

    As an example, the BoM states that there were numerous temples and synagogues, built after the manner of Jews. I know of no temple or synagogues in any location, that would compare with a Jewish house of worship. We would expect to find synagogues with a bimah, aron kodesh, and a beit midrash and other things that make a Jewish temple or synagogue a temple or synagogue.

    The Mesoamerican temples were not even close to being “Jewish, and I know of nothing North American at all that would quailify. So to my point, instead of working with what is found in these areas, and expounding on those evidences for what they are…it seems, especially with the LGT, Smoot starts with a preconceived conclusion, based on faith, and then try’s to force the BOM narrative into a culture and archeology that contradicts the narrative.

    I read Mormons Codex to too long ago… I have read several other publications by Gardner, Soronsen, Ferguson, FARM’s, and even Dewy Farnsworth over the years. Does that help?

    Thanks

    • Markk,

      You wrote: “As an example, the BoM states that there were numerous temples and synagogues, built after the manner of Jews. I know of no temple or synagogues in any location, that would compare with a Jewish house of worship. We would expect to find synagogues with a bimah, aron kodesh, and a beit midrash and other things that make a Jewish temple or synagogue a temple or synagogue.”

      It’s important that we read the text of the Book of Mormon closely and in context. The passage that you quoted is from Alma 16:13: “And Alma and Amulek went forth preaching repentance to the people [i.e., the Nephites] in their temples, and in their sanctuaries, and also in their synagogues, which were built after the manner of the Jews.” Consider the following:

      • Any Nephite buildings built “after the manner of the Jews” would have been based on descriptions of these buildings left by Lehi and Nephi, based on their memories of Jewish worship ca. 597 B.C. That was before the existence of the post-Exilic synagogues that we’re familiar with, and also just after the reforms of King Josiah, which Lehi may or may not have agreed with. So, whatever a Jewish place of worship looked like to Lehi, it’s quite possible that it would have looked and acted differently than the synagogues that arose after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem.
      • The passage describes Nephite religious buildings ca. 80 B.C., five hundred years after Lehi left Jerusalem. What changes to Jewish religious architecture would have taken place during those five centuries? “After the manner of the Jews” likely would have meant something quite different to the Nephites than a simplistic reading of that phrase would indicate.
      • Compounding the problem, that passage in Alma 16 was written by the redactor Mormon in late fourth century A.D., about 450 years after the period he was describing and nearly a thousand years after Lehi left Jerusalem. What did Mormon know about Jewish religious architecture of the sixth century B.C.? His idea of it would certainly have been very different than what it was like in Lehi’s time and different from what we expect synagogues to be like.

      Brant Gardner has three pages of commentary on this passage in his six-volume _Second Witness: Analytical and Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon_. I recommend his commentary to you.

      — Peter @ NevilleNevilleLand.com

  18. Stephen,

    Thank you for this. This sounds like a dangerous book.

    False doctrine is dangerous, because sooner or later it will be shown to be false. Then people who used it as a foundation for their faith will be shaken.

    I think many people who leave the church because of doctrinal issues never understood what the real doctrine was, or believed in something that was never more than speculation.

  19. Hey Peter,

    I’m not sure where to start. First of all, the BoM reads that Nephi built a Temple after the manner of Solomon around 580 BC. Not a guess of what a Temple might be, but after the manner of The Temple. It would have taken plans, and many workers, which would have passed on the construction, and oral tradition would have began. Not to mention the tradition it would have started in Temple worship, the Torah, Bimah, and other things that make a Jewish house of worship…a Jewish house of worship.

    BG wrote…” So, whatever a Jewish place of worship looked like to Lehi, it’s quite possible that it would have looked and acted differently than the synagogues that arose after the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem.”

    If that were true, then it is a contradiction of terms, in that it could not be a Temple or synagogue in any Jewish context. This also is spot on to my point, in that Gardner is starting with a preconceived ideology and forcing it into another context and culture.

    Gardner is just posing questions, that would support his preconceived position instead of digging deep into the MA culture, religion and architecture/archeology, and letting it speak for it’s self.

    You wrote…”It’s important that we read the text of the Book of Mormon closely and in context.”

    Yes, and the context of the BoM does not allow a Mesoamercan setting, it demands a very different setting. The context of the BoM is a mix of Christianity, the Jewish faith, and early 19th century thought. The BoM does not allow a Mesoamerican setting, culture, people or religion….it is just not there, and ignoring that, and forcing the BoM into MA, is obvious.

    What building in Mesoamerica do you believe is a Temple, synagogue, or Jewish place of worship that we can take a look at, and see if what we know about that place, can compliment the context of the BoM?

    Thanks for the conversation

  20. Hi Markk,

    I just wanted to respond to your assertion that, “The most logical place to start with either theory is the BoM, and we can simply pick a location in either north America, or Mesoamerica and see whether or not that particular area, city, or persons, in the specific time required, compliment the BoM narrative.”

    Everyone agrees that the BoM is the most logical place to start – with the possible exception of the Heartlanders, who seem to favor select statements from general authorities over the text. However, it is not methodologically sound to pick a spot and try to find things that fit or don’t. That approach is too susceptible to bias and twisting of data to fit pet theories, or as you say, “starts with a preconceived conclusion, based on faith, and then try’s [sic] to force the BOM narrative into a culture and archeology that contradicts the narrative.”

    The soundest approach is to first develop a map that is entirely consistent with the BoM, independent of any real world maps. There is ample data within the text that provide information on topology, climate, hydrology, geology, relative city location, etc. that when taken together can provide a very detailed map. I know of 2 examples of this approach (though there may be more): John Sorenson’s “Mormon’s Map” and virtualscriptures.org. Only once the independent map is created can it then be compared with real world locations.

    There are (at least) 2 advantages with this. First, it merges all relevant data into a single data set that can ease the use of comparison with real world locations. Second, and probably more importantly, it ensures that even the most minute detail in the text that should be dis-positive is so. There is no forcing or warping of the BoM text into a geography, because the geography was built around the text itself. It becomes an actually scientific endeavor with a testable hypothesis; namely, does the real world geography match the map developed from the text? If there is even one detail that cannot match, then it must be discarded.

    Regards,
    Emerson

  21. I have absolutely no desire to continue debating Markk, as the odds of either one of us being converted to the other’s views are somewhere south of zero.

    I would like to point out two important considerations:

    (1) In order to understand what Nephi’s temple looked like, we’d have to understand what he meant when he wrote that it was constructed “after the manner” of Solomon’s temple (2 Nephi 5:16). It appears to indicate form, kind, degree, or mode—not an exact copy, but something similar to the original. Nephite directly stated that it didn’t have the grandeur and opulence of Solomon’s temple; considering the small number of Nephites at the time (Sorenson estimates 11 adults and 13 children), it was almost certainly not its same size, either. This temple was the setting for Jacob’s sermon to his people (Jacob 1:17). After that, Nephi’s temple isn’t mentioned again. When the Nephites abandoned the area for the northern lowlands, what happened to the structure? Did Lamanites or others tear it down? Renovate it and repurpose it? Did it even exist in any form that would be recognizable as a Jewish-style temple? If its remains were discovered today (itself a problematic assumption), could we even recognize it for what it was?

    (2) The same applies for anything “Nephite” after the destruction of the Nephite people in the late fourth century. Would their Lamanite conquerers leave anything the reminded them of Nephite people, writings, or culture? Having obliterated the people, they would almost certainly seek to stamp out the memory of them, as well.

    It’s quite likely that we’ll never find any Nephite buildings or artifacts that are unambiguously “Nephite.” The Nephite civilization is probably among the unknown number of other world civilizations that have vanished without a trace.

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