New information on Book of Mormon Geography

The Church just released this information today:

The Church takes no position on the specific geographic location of Book of Mormon events in the ancient Americas. Church members are asked not to teach theories about Book of Mormon geography in Church settings but to focus instead on the Book of Mormon’s teachings and testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel.
The Book of Mormon includes a history of an ancient people who migrated from the Near East to the Americas. This history contains information about the places they lived, including descriptions of landforms, natural features, and the distances and cardinal directions between important points. The internal consistency of these descriptions is one of the striking features of the Book of Mormon.
Since the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830, members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed numerous opinions about the specific locations of the events discussed in the book. Some believe that the history depicted in the Book of Mormon occurred in North America, while others believe that it occurred in Central America or South America. Although Church members continue to discuss such theories today, the Church takes no position on the geography of the Book of Mormon except that the events it describes took place in the Americas.
The Prophet Joseph Smith himself accepted what he felt was evidence of Book of Mormon civilizations in both North America and Central America. While traveling with Zion’s Camp in 1834, Joseph wrote to his wife Emma that they were “wandering over the plains of the Nephites, recounting occasionally the history of the Book of Mormon, roving over the mounds of that once beloved people of the Lord, picking up their skulls and their bones, as a proof of its divine authenticity.”1 In 1842, the Church newspaper Times and Seasons
published articles under Joseph Smith’s editorship that identified the ruins of ancient native civilizations in Mexico and Central America as further evidence of the Book of Mormon’s historicity.2
Anthony W. Ivins, a Counselor in the First Presidency, stated: “There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question [of Book of Mormon geography]. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth.”3The Church urges local leaders and members not to advocate theories of Book of Mormon geography in official Church settings. Speaking of the book’s history and geography, President Russell M. Nelson taught: “Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.”4

Here is the link.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

10 thoughts on “New information on Book of Mormon Geography

  1. It’s not stopping me from having a blast running a BoM-set RPG for some guys from my ward. The adventures in the land northward continue. 🙂

  2. This is wisdom. Butting heads over various location theories fosters contention. Some advocates one way or the other ‘make hay’ on selling books and conducting tours that are promoted through ‘firesides’ held in Church settings. I’m an advocate of scholarship and investigation. Some of the best scholars on the subject are ‘amateurs’ in the best sense of the word, for instance the Hiltons and others who followed what they feel is Lehi’s trail through the the desert to ‘Bountiful’. One ongoing and almost inescapable area of possible confrontation comes in artistic and graphic representations of Book of Mormon scenes. Such illustrations lean heavily on the Meso-American model with few if any depicting a culture identifiable as ‘Heartland’, let alone Peruvian or Baja Californian.
    I testify that the Book of Mormon is a true account of God’s dealings with men and if proof come in that it took place on a colony located on Mars that would not bother me (but it would be intriguing).

  3. I am glad that the Leadership is giving the wisdom of patience to wait on the Lord to reveal what He will reveal. Whether you follow the theory of Mesoamerica, South America, Baja or the Heartland we need to remember we are all Saints who believe Jesus came here and administered to the ancient Jewish civilization that waited for the Messiah. There are holes in everyone’s theories so the anyone is on the point of bullying needs or at least be contentious needs to stop. Since Nephi on down the waiting of the Messiah was 633 years. Do we not have the same patience and long suffering for answers to these questions from God?

  4. “the contrary, the essay says he was dead right in the sense that he did not try to fit the Book of Mormon into any specific theory.”

    Well, seemed like he was happy to combine all the theories.

    I think the reality is, the language about Times and Seasons / Meso temples is weasel language. It tries to claim it has Joseph’s equal approval and balance it as the same weight as the heartland theory (which I’m not familiar with, just use the name as shorthand since I see it get used elsewhere).

    That’s nonsense, because I’m certain if we dug through all times and Seasons and found something we don’t like attributed to Joseph, we wouldn’t throw up our hands and say, “well, it had Joseph’s imprimatur”, so he agreed. Likewise, not even President Nelson will own every statement made by a church organization today.

    I say this as someone who’s happy to see parallels with the meso Americans, and I can also see that Joseph was just a man who lived his visions all around him, so it’s possible he could find an old altar and think it’s Adam’s and so on.

    But it’s obvious what’s happening here. Academics, hobbyists, researchers, etc look for evidence and when little is found we retreat. Meh. It’s crazy because, we already have the issue of Adam living here as well! It’s not like we can square any of this with archeology. It’s either a stumbling block, or just an interesting, “huh, I wonder how that worked out” thing.

    I have no problem with Zelph, majority descended from Lamanites and so on. It’s clear that one retreat begets another. To me, my poorly treated native brothers are Lamanites, and I might add, most of the native American members agree with that!

    When God called men on missions to Lamanites, it’s clear he wasn’t asking them to find the portal to the center of the Earth. They were around their area, not half a world away. And I’m fine with that connection to Latin/South America as well.

    When it comes to issues of faith, that post is certainly not authorizative to a higher degree then any other statement by a named authority in the past. 10 years from now, it will still have no name and any effort to claim it as revelatory is on far more tenuous grounds then the now disavowed teachings on blacks and the priesthood.

    And again, I’ve always been happy to imagine Lamanites across the whole land, or just in either part of it.

  5. Sean, do you ever go on Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim, Al Queda, Al Shabab, Boko Haram, Taliban, or ISIS blogs and leave comments with your opinions about their religion?

    (Geoff, please feel free to delete my comment if you think it’s too snarky. But please leave Sean’s comment stand. In some future day, we may look back and wish people abused us _only_ verbally.)

  6. There is a reason, I believe, why the Gold Plates are back with the Angel Moroni and not in a display case in Salt Lake City. Too many people would profess to believe in the restored Church without having the faith to ask God by the power of the Holy Ghost if the Book of Mormon and the Church are true. The previously established Christian Churches would continue to squabble over doctrine, interpretation and authority and/or “infiltrate” the restoration. We would have many more splinter groups from the Church besides the Community of Christ (formerly known as RLDS) and a few very small groups. The Lord does things His way. Likewise, the archaeology of the Nephites and Lamanites of old is somewhat elusive for several reasons. Reason 1: Faith. Reasons 2-100: I have no idea.

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