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