After making a post on a Baja California Book of Mormon model, I was contacted by Beau Anderson who has put together his own Baja California model. I told him I’d let him do a guest post to present his own theory. I am not sure what to make of the model itself, but I could appreciate the accessibility of his approach, which involved marking in Google Earth where he thinks the various landmarks fit so that you can easily compare it to the Book of Mormon and decide for yourself if this is something you’re interested in or if you want to discard it.
The Book of Mormon has been in print for nearly two centuries now and during that time, many people who believe that the book is true have put a lot of effort into finding out where the events described in the book actually took place. These efforts have resulted in a large number of theories and claims about evidence supporting the history described in the book, but none of these theories or claims has created a consensus among believers regarding where events in the Book of Mormon took place.
Of course, some geographical models of the Book of Mormon lands have gained more traction than others, but strong disagreements exist between authors and, unfortunately, the debates that have resulted from these disagreements have not always been civil. The model authors’ minds at times get greatly excited, the cry and tumult are so great and incessant. The Great-Lakeians are most decided against the Meso-Americanists, and use all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they are in error. On the other hand, the Meso-Americanists, in their turn are equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others.
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, believers in The Book of Mormon often say to themselves: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall we know it?
The extreme difficulties being caused by the contests of these parties of religionists has created an atmosphere that is somewhat hostile to new ideas regarding the lands of the Book of Mormon, but it is into this social environment that models of the Book of Mormon lands in Baja California have emerged.
On the very few occasions that Baja models have been featured in the press, they have not garnered them very much attention and the few times that Baja models have managed to solicit opinions from the LDS academic community, the opinions often resemble drive-by shootings more than they resemble thoughtful discussions.
My name is Beau Anderson and I’m the author of a website (bofmmodel.org) that describes a model of the Book of Mormon lands in Baja California and the North American Southwest. I recently ran into Bruce Nielson’s Baja article that he posted in July after he came across the other prominent Baja model (achoiceland.com). I’d like to share my model with Millennial Star readers and answer any questions that you might have regarding it specifically or Baja models in general.
Bruce told me that he wasn’t likely to actually support my theory and let me know that I’m likely to get both positive and negative feedback from readers, but that he would be happy to point out my model to the audience so that they can see the work that has been going into the effort.
Here is a very brief overview of the model:
* Sometime around 3,500 to 2,500 BC, The Jaredites landed in the far north of the Baja peninsula and the Jaredite story-line took place largely in Southern California and the North American Southwest. They were aware of the lands to the south in the peninsula and even utilized them for hunting, but did not make major settlements in the mid or lower portions of the peninsula. Their culture came to an end near the Colorado River Delta. The modern Colorado River Delta is very dry and barren, but previous to modern dam building along the Colorado River it was a beautiful environment worthy of being called “a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains”.
* Just after 600BC, Lehi’s party landed in the southern portion of the peninsula and soon split off into the separate Nephite and Lamanite nations.
* Soon after 600BC, The Mulekites settled in a place called Zarahemla in the middle of the peninsula in the vicinity of the modern city of San Ignacio.
* Several hundred years after settling the lower portions of the peninsula, the Nephites migrated northward and joined the Mulekites in Zarahemla and many of the main events from the Book of Mormon take place during the subsequent centuries.
* In the decades before the birth of Christ, significant numbers of people left the central and southern portions of the peninsula to settle in the north around the Colorado River Delta and into Southern California and possibly beyond.
* For many centuries, the Nephite nation successfully kept the Lamanites from overrunning the land northward by utilizing the peninsula’s naturally narrow topography, but eventually the Lamanites broke through the Nephite lines, invaded Southern California, and the Nephites fled to the Colorado River Delta near a hill and land named Cumorah. This hill is now known as Cerro Prieto. It overlooks the delta as well as imperial valley California and is the prominent feature marking the high-ground used when crossing the delta. Here they made their final stand, but their culture was destroyed.
Among other things, the model also claims that:
* Baja can support the populations mentioned in the Book of Mormon without requiring that the peninsula’s climate be significantly different than it is today, but that a wetter climate is probably suggested by the text and that there is evidence showing that Baja probably experienced significantly more rainfall during Book of Mormon times than it does now.
* The geography of the model’s lands fits the descriptions given in the Book of Mormon in significant detail.
* Much anecdotal information about the prehistoric peninsula is consistent with many of the specific expectations from the Book of Mormon. For instance, the Lamanites in Baja referred to themselves as “Lamonies” when Baja was discovered and missionized by the Spanish.
* The peninsula provided an environment where species of animals such as horses and elephants could have survived the extinctions that happened to their respective species in the rest of the Americas. The Baja model answers many of these kinds of questions that are common arguments against the historicity of the Book of Mormon.
* Population migrations consistent with migrations described in the Book of Mormon have been identified in modern scientific papers.
* The peninsula is a perfect candidate location for the types of upheavals described at the death of Christ. From earthquakes, to volcanoes, to cities sinking, to mountains rising, to the whole face of the land being changed, and much more, Baja has it all when it comes to natural hazards.
…and much, much, more. Even if you don’t agree with the overall idea, studying the Book of Mormon through the lens of a Baja setting is an eye-opening experience with a fresh set of claims and challenges.
The Baja model does have its drawbacks, including a lack of evidence of significant metallurgy and only sparse indications of an ancient alphabet, but Baja is also known as “The Forgotten Peninsula” by modern archaeologists. Only in recent years have significant archaeological efforts gained steam. Who knows what we will learn about the forgotten cultures of the forgotten peninsula in the years to come.