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Engineering Joseph’s Visionary City (Part 1 of 8)

We’re going to get acquainted with David R. Hall, Chairman of Hall Labs in Provo, Utah. He’s an amazing inventor and gets his ideas from Joseph’s planned city.  We’ll get more acquainted with Joseph’s plans for Independence and Kirtland.

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David: My name is David Hall. I’m the son of Tracy Hall, who was a very famous scientist. He started what I’m now running, Hall Labs, clear back in 1954. Hall Labs is really a multi-functional lab with scientists in all the disciplines. We spin off companies, really many times, even before they’re profitable, in order to have money to go on to the next fun job. So, we’re turning the money constantly, all the time. What our Apollo project is, what excites us to get up in the morning and solve another problem actually comes from what is known in the LDS culture as the plat of Zion. We’ve renamed it with our own name called New Vista. But there are so many problems to get a New Vista running, that we never run out of issues. So, we work on them one at a time, but we’ll never get them all figured out. They’ll always be there.

GT:  I just want you guys to know–I’m sure you’ve never heard of David Hall before. I hadn’t heard until he reached out a couple of months ago. But I’m telling you, this is like Elon Musk and Bill Gates combined, and he’s LDS. So, that’s even better.

David: Yeah, and I don’t have nearly the money, that’s for sure. We probably have as many projects.

GT:  But, the amazing number of things that you’re working on is just mind blowing. I seriously feel like we just did a tour of the future. Because, I really am amazed. I don’t think it’s an understatement to call you a visionary. Holy cow!

David: Or crazy.

GT:  Visionaries are crazy. Right?

David:  Right, so [they go] kind of together.

GT:  The reason why I wanted to talk to you here on my podcast was, I love Independence and the city of Zion. Recently, there have been some high-resolution maps of what the original plot that Joseph Smith had in mind for Independence. It’s been amazing to me, as you said, you’ve taken this idea that Joseph Smith had, and you’re trying to solve these problems, and it’s created all these amazing new companies. First of all, can you tell us a little bit about Joseph Smith’s plans for Independence, and kind of how that’s inspiring you?

David:  Well, the plans actually came when they were at Kirtland. So, they were for Kirtland first, and then secondarily, Missouri. That’s where we have forgotten what the real history was. What was happening in Kirtland in 1832 and 33 is they were getting enough people that people were starting to say, “Well, let’s build a schoolhouse or let’s build a church, or let’s do something.”  Of course, the plan to build a community in Independence had already been thought of and talked about, but really, the core people were in Kirtland still when it came to that. So, Joseph Smith had probably been working on a plan since the early 1830s, after he finished the Book of Mormon, or he probably had some of the ideas when he was doing the Book of Mormon. But, when he starts to get into his studies about Enoch, he runs into the city that disappears.

David:  So, you’ve got all of these thoughts about a kind of ultimate city and community environment happening. Kirtland needs something. He already has the plat that we call the plat of Zion in front of it. If you read section 94 [in the Doctrine & Covenants] carefully, it tells him that the patterns have already been given to you, and you’ve got to follow it. So, in front of them, if you go into Joseph Smith Papers, you can search the 1833 plat and see the original. Imagine they already have that in front of them when they receive Sections 94 and 95. In fact, you can’t understand sections 94 and 95 unless you put it out in front of you, and really study it. Because there’s actually some unique numbers. There’s a building number five that has a big one by it, and a building number 17 that has a big two by it. Those were the two buildings that they were commanded to build. Now, they’re sitting there looking at 24 buildings.

GT:  Right. Now we’ve talked about that before on the podcast about there were really only 24 temples planned, and maybe temples isn’t the best word.

David:  Temple was–that name was not used. That came into existence later. They were called houses of the Lord. The real correct name for that is community center. So, there were supposed to be 24 community buildings. By the way, the actual size of the building was three or four times what they built in Kirtland. But they got a lot of it right. They’re looking at this plat wondering what to do, and how to build the buildings.

Check out our conversation….

David R Hall is trying to build Joseph’s city.
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BoM: South America, Heartland, Meso (Part 3 of 6)

We’re into part 3 of our look at Book of Mormon geography theories. This time, we’ll cover 3 of the more popular theories: South America, the Heartland, and Mesoamerica.

GT:  I will tell you what. This was one of the first Book of Mormon geography models that I had ever heard. About 20 years ago, my girlfriend, at the time, who is now my wife, we went on a trip to Hawaii. We went to a branch in Hawaii and the branch president was a big proponent of this model. It was kind of funny, because he was really a big fan of Venice Priddis.  George Potter has kind of some variations on this model, as well. His website is http://nephiproject.com. There’s another guy by the name of Del Dowdell at http://nephicode.blogspot.com. I don’t want to say all three of these theories are the same, but they’re, as far as locationally, they’re very similar. The idea is the Incas were the Lehites or the Lamanites and Nephites. I know that Venice Priddis spent a lot of time, similar with the Baja theory.  They brought seeds and the seeds grew in the Americas.

GT:  The problem with Venice’s map here is that this was true about 18 million years ago. So, your timeline is a bit off. Of course, I’ve got a link to the Smithsonian Magazine there. So, that’s a big problem, being off 18 million years. So, it’s kind of hard to argue that that’s what the land was like when Lehi landed here. So, some pros of the South American theory, if you believe that the Amazon Basin River was flooded, then you do have a north/south Peninsula. It’s at the wrong time period, though. It’s got a similar climate to the Mediterranean. The peninsula matches. The distances are an okay match. Church leaders actually embrace North and South America as land of the Nephites.

GT:  The Heartland theory, I don’t know if Jonathan Neville is here. He’ll probably correct me on a few things. I know that Meldrum, May and Neville kind of all have slightly different takes on this theory, but this is the one that I found. It kind of gives you an idea of where Zarahemla, Lehi and Nephi–places are, Cumorah. One of the benefits of this theory is, this is kind of where Joseph Smith grew up. He was familiar with the legends of the Indians or the Native Americans. So, you can see that a lot of this would have been incorporated with Joseph Smith’s thinking. Once again, this looks like a really large section of area. I don’t think it fits the limited geography theory. Whether you believe Sorenson or not, you’ve got to say a lot of the work he’s done on distances, makes a lot of sense. So, this seems a bit more spread out than it probably should be. We’re talking thousands of miles, when we probably should be in the hundreds of miles as far as differences.

GT:  Once again, it’s not a north/south peninsula. It has several candidates for your narrow neck of land. Mississippi or Missouri rivers are plausible for a river Sidon.  Lakes could be reasonably construed as seas. It’s very near the Hill Cumorah, so you’ve got your one Cumorah theory. I know Rod has spent a lot of time, and I’m going to talk about this in a couple of slides here, claiming that he solved the Middle East problem with the X lineage.  He’s going to call that a pro. I’m actually going to call that a con, but I left it in the pros here for now.

GT:  The Mound Builder culture likely influenced Joseph Smith. Cons: you’ve got the elephants, horses, plants problem. The Mound Builders just don’t have the technology to build a temple like unto Solomon. There were no chariots. There were no wheeled vehicles. Technologically, the Mound Builders were more kind of Stone Age technologically. It seems unlikely that the Book of Mormon never mentioned snow. The climate doesn’t seem to match, especially when you’re getting into the Great Lakes region. It seems to me, I’m speaking on my behalf and so people may question this. But I’m going to say, it seems like Rod loves to mix science with religion. He will use a lot of quotes from early church leaders that support his theory and then he will ignore some of the other ones. I know there’s a quote where Joseph Smith said–the South American proponents say that Lehi landed at 30 degrees south latitude and Rod just kind of ignores that completely. Sorenson basically says that Joseph didn’t know everything and so [you can discount the Hemispheric Model.]

GT:  Moving on to Mesoamerican theory. This is Dr. Sorensen’s theory. Like I said, this probably has the most scholars behind it. You’ve got Sorensen’s map on the top.  There are other variations like Garth Norman. I’m trying to get Garth on my podcast.[1] He has a different candidate for the River Sidon and he takes a few issues, but basically, the overall map is pretty similar. You can see you’ve got the land Bountiful, land Desolation. Once again, as we look at this, if this is your narrow neck of land, it’s more of an east/west orientation than north/south. So, that’s a little bit of a problem. I know Sorenson puts a lot in the Yucatan Peninsula as well. Sorenson has a couple of books. You can purchase them there, the bottom one there, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon is probably the most scholarly one.[2]

GT:  You’ve got Brant Gardner’s review.  Brant’s a big fan of the Mesoamerican theory. I would say that the majority of people that believe in a literal Book of Mormon probably support this theory the most.  BYU also put out another DVD. It’s also called Journey of Faith: the New World. So, it talks mostly about the Central American theory/Mesoamerican theory. The pros: it’s supported by most scholars. It’s the best researched.  All other limited geography theories depend on Sorensen’s work. Your distances match. He seems to have identified the old Olmec and the Maya as the–the Olmec are the Jaredites and the Maya are the Lamanites and Nephites. Sorenson has identified pre-Columbian contact.  Some of the cons: it’s more of an east/west orientation rather than north/south.  The Yucatan Peninsula is not really that narrow. The DNA doesn’t match. Once again, how did the plates get to New York? Sorenson proposes a two Cumorah theory, where the last battle took place in Central America and then Moroni had 30 years to get it to New York. So in 30 years, you can move anything. Still has a problem with elephants, horses, plants, etc. All of the American theories suffer from that.

[1] Unfortunately, Garth Norman and John Sorensen both passed away in December 2021.

[2] Mormon’s Codex is available at https://amzn.to/3eNGxPA

What are your thoughts?  Check out our conversation….

The 3 most popular theories are South America, the Heartland, & Mesoamerica.

Check out our previous conversations!

601: Malay, Baja, New York

600: BoM Geography: From Middle East to Africa

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BoM Geography: From Middle East to Africa (Part 1 of 6)

Where did the Book of Mormon take place?  There are probably more theories out there than you know.  I’m going to share a Zoom presentation I gave May 10, 2021 to a Community of Christ group.  In part 1, we’ll talk about internal maps, the Middle East, and an African Theory of the Book of Mormon.

GT:  I thought we could kind of start out a little bit with Middle Eastern geography. Most of this comes from a film put out by, mainly by BYU, called Journey of Faith.  I’ve got the DVD there. They seem to think that the Frankincense Trail seems to be the likely route that Lehi and his family proposed. I’ve got a link there, if you want to watch that.  It’s pretty good. It’s definitely a well-done video. There’s a link there. What proponents would call a bull’s eye, is where in First Nephi 16:34, “And it came to pass that Ishmael died and was buried in a place which was called Nahom.” So, basically, that’s one of the best spots that we have for Book of Mormon geography, and it talks about it. There are several quotes in there that this Nahom is on the Frankincense Trail. I might go out of order here, I wanted to show a little bit on the map here. On that left map, you can see, basically, they left Jerusalem headed mostly south, down to the wadi, well, actually, where it crosses–that word Timna there, they kind of crossed that river there, and they’re on the western side of the Red Sea. That’s where they probably joined up with the Frankincense Trail.

GT:  If you look at the middle map there, you can see that the Frankincense Trail goes into the Sinai Peninsula, but that’s really where Lehi and his family probably joined that, into Arabia and then took a left turn there on that third map, at the bottom there and headed [west.] There are a few different sites there for different potential harbors for Nephi’s harbor.  Of course, in the interest of giving all perspectives–of course not everybody believes Nahom is a bull’s eye. John Hamer left a comment and said, “It should come as no surprise or no shock to us that Nahum, which is spelled with a U instead of an O, a Hebrew prophet in the Bible has a Semitic name. It should, therefore, come as no shock that there are places in Semitic speaking countries that share that name, or at least the consonants N, H, M.” Of course, Hebrew, a lot of times, leaves out a lot of the vowels.

GT:  John says, “When I first wrote about Nahum on a board, I did a quick test. I said to myself, ‘they speak Arabic in Iraq. Let’s see if there’s a Nahum in Iraq, and a quick Google search picked up a place called Nahum in the Mason province, immediately south of Al Amarah.’ In other words, the Book of Mormon had said that Lehi and his party traveled past Babylon, there was another potential Nahum bull’s eye, waiting in Mesopotamia. Another Google search shows that historically there was a town called Nahem, in Lebanon, halfway between Tyre and Acre. If Joseph Smith had sent Lehi to America via Phoenicia, there would have been another bull’s eye!”

GT:  So, he basically goes on to say “[NHM] is not really a bull’s eye. He questions whether it’s even noteworthy, given that the entire volume of a large Semitic country in which to find a Semitic route. There’s a Nihm in Arabia, which is not precisely matched to the Nahom, but, the three letters match. Not everybody is convinced. In Journey of Faith, this is, of course, where Ishmael died and was buried in the place of Nahom on the Frankincense Trail. So, that’s the most likely route and probably the best archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon. There are a couple of possible ports in Yemen.

GT:  I would first start off with a very different theory, the African theory by Embaye Melekin. This is kind of an interesting theory.  Obviously, it’s not in the Americas. I will say this, we did see, if Nephi, left Yemen, it would be a lot easier to go to Eritrea or Ethiopia than any of the other places. It kind of has that advantage of being a relatively short trip. You can see Eritrea is on the border of the Red Sea. So, you’re kind of still staying within the Middle Eastern model. So, Melekin has written a couple of books, The African Bible. This one on top, I think, is the first edition. The one on the bottom is the second edition. I looked on Amazon, the top one was like $800. I don’t think anybody’s going to be buying that one. I think it’s basically the same book. They’ve just got two different covers. But, he basically thinks that the Book of Mormon took place in Africa. He says the Sabeans are the Nephites, and the Agazians are the Lamanites. He kind of also believes that the Bible took place in Africa. He definitely seems to have an African bias there. You can actually preview the book. I’ve got a Google link here you can read.

GT:  He’s got another book called 80 Reasons Why the Book of Mormon is an African Bible. From what I understand, he’s just kind of read the Book of Mormon on his own. He’s not a member of any Restorationist church, but he believes it is the word of God.

Have you heard of the African Theory?  What are your thoughts of Nahom and Nephi’s harbor?  Check out our conversation….

Rick B discusses Middle Eastern, internal, and African Book of Mormon geography theories!

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