The DNA issue rediscovered in the LA Times

The LA Times’ story on DNA research undermining the Book of Mormon is getting fairly big play nationwide. In fact, the play is big enough that the Church responded on its web site to the story.

For people who have been following this issue, there is little new going on. The Church web sites has a variety of links that respond to the DNA issue to my satisfaction, including one by the venerable Jeff Lindsay of M* fame. Can I just emphasize once again that for people who have actually read the Book of Mormon the DNA controversy is a non-issue? For those who have not read the book, my suggestion is, read it!

Update: Right Side Redux, a blog I had never heard of, has a thorough and very interesting look at this issue here.

This entry was posted in Any by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

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.

114 thoughts on “The DNA issue rediscovered in the LA Times

  1. Well, since the Corner and Hugh Hewitt have picked up on this, and both seem favorably inclined towards the LA Times story, this is not going to be a PR victory for the church.

    In fact, because of the attention it’s getting, it may even hurt the church a bit, though I suspect in the end it will be a wash.

  2. “…that for people who have actually read the Book of Mormon the DNA controversy is a non-issue?”

    Those of us born and raised in the Church know what we were taught and what we have read by the Prophets regarding the Book of Mormon peoples and their descendants.

    Is physical evidence the only basis for “truth?” – no. Are our leaders infallible? Of course not. But to simply brush off 175 years of teachings and interpretations is callow and cynical. We must be strong enough in our God-given rational minds to deal with the implications of what the empirical evidence is telling us.

  3. I agree that the DNA thing is really a non-issue.

    But that Meridian article was pretty dumb too.

    Replace the words “Thomas Murphy” with “Copernicus” and replace the words “LDS Church” with “the Catholic Church” and it quickly becomes clear that this logical argument breaks down pretty quickly.

    Really, this just amounts to the old argument of “if you don’t like it here then leave.”

    Such arguments can be used against absolutely everyone who criticizes: whether they are preaching heavenly mother, or trying to get the Bishop to reschedule a temple trip.

    “Bishop, that youth temple trip happens to be scheduled during the hhigh school band competition and half the youth won’t be able to make it.”

    “If you don’t like it here then leave!”

    OK, that’s an extremely innocuous example. But the point is that “if you don’t like it, then leave” is almost always a relly stupid argument. It just doesn’t work.

    What you need to do is explain why the idea that the BoM is not inspired is not compatible with our religion and why the idea should not be embraced by the church. The Meridian article didn’t really do that.

    I don’t agree with Murphy, and I don’t think he’s any Copernicus. But the Meridian defense was really weak.

  4. Geoff, just as Seth speaks of the Meridian approach, I don’t think it’s helpful to brush something off as “old news” when it’s actually a new and developing story for most people. This approach, combined with the “don’t believe what your’re hearing, just read it” admonition looks more like an attempt at obfuscation. Like “nothing here to see folks, move along.”

    Marion is quite right. We need to deal with this on the level that it deserves, else we have joined the ranks of religious oppressors…driving people away from faith by our fearful example.

  5. Wow, Seth, thanks for the support. But I would agree that I would have written the article differently today after years of being beat up on the bloggernacle. There is something about the intellectual process here that does make your arguments better (I hope). Still, I would say that many antis love to hang around and beat up the Church and drag down others’ faith long after they have “left” it. So, I would defend that point. In addition, I think I make some valid points on DNA analysis. But thanks for the feedback, and you do make some valid points.

  6. Watt and Marion, agreed this was newsworthy. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have posted on it. But what exactly was new in the LA times story?

    As for dealing with it, I’m not sure what you mean. The DNA issue is a non-issue for me because I don’t believe the Book of Mormon makes that claim that all native Americans are Lamanites. In fact, I believe it makes the opposite claim. So, my reading of the book contradicts the basic claim of the DNA Church critics. If you do believe that, well, go to the many links I have provided and decide for yourself.

  7. “The DNA issue is a non-issue for me because I don’t believe the Book of Mormon makes that claim that all native Americans are Lamanites.”

    This is a circumlocution of the issue, which is that the book has been presented, virtually from the beginning, as something that not only could/would be verified by physical evidence but that living native peoples where part of that evidence. This is the stuff that cannot so easily be brushed-off as inconseqential. Seeking to do so raises red flags.

    I agree that the book itself appeals primarily to a faith-based approach of verification. Nevertheless, the premise of the book and basic doctrinal teachings that encompass its coming forth, screamout to be verified in the physical world. That verification will take place and we will live with the results, even if it means accepting the book entirely on faith.

  8. Watt, you make a good point. Have you read the articles by Jeff Lindsay and others I linked? Do they deal with the issues you bring up? I’m sincerely curious on your perspective.

  9. I have not…but I’ll read Lindsay and get back to you with my impressions. At first glance however, it looks like a defence of the divinity of the BoM. As I said, I agree that the book asserts directly that its divinity can only/best be had via personal revelation. The main issue is not this, but the extent to which the book begs for physical verification…and the extent to which such openess to verification has been promoted as indicative of its truthfulness…and of its relevance to the world.

    I’ll be looking for persuasive arguments in defence of the physical/historical premise and external supporting doctrines.

  10. I can only echo was Seth said, by saying that I don’t really buy much anything that comes out of Meridian Magazine. I’ve taken the time to read only 4 or 5 of their articles and ever one has been so wide of the mark as to discredit the entire magazine in my opinion. Sorry Geoff, but it had to be said, and to be honest I had no clue that you wrote for Meridian.

  11. Jeffrey, no hard feelings. What do you think about the whole DNA situation? Are any of the articles I linked interesting to you?

  12. Well, I just posted a comment over at Woody’s Roundup which I’ll copy here:

    Oh c’mon, are you going to tell me that the first time you read the BoM and read about the huge land northward separated from the huge land southward by a tiny strip of land you didn’t think it was talking about the whole continent? What phrase do you need to see in the book for it to include the entire hemisphere? Certainly all the earliest readings of the BoM were Hemispherical.

    It was only after people started to realize that the times and distances couldn’t match up with such huge distances that things began to change. Notice, while the limited geography model is not ad hoc with respects to the genetic evidence it is VERY ad hoc with regard to the evidence from geography, archeology and anthropology.

    The BoM DOES claim to be hemispherical, but it also claims many things which with a little bit of knowledge are absurd in such a context. So now that we have this knowledge we can either say that the claims regarding distances and the like are absurd, or that the most straightforward reading of the macro geology are absurd. Of course the most popular approach nowadays is do simply silence the statements which are clearly intended to support the hemispherical model.

    With that in mind it shouldn’t be too hard to guess where I fall on the DNA issue. Many of the Signature Books crowd are trying to claim that the limited geography model (LGM) is an ad hoc adjustment in response to the DNA evidence. I think that this is wrong. I do, however, think that the LGM is an ad hoc adjustment in response to the geographical, archeological and anthropological studies performed on the American continent for well over a century now. In over words, the strongest evidence against the historicity of the BoM comes not from DNA, but from the BoM itself combined with what we know about the terrain, travel times, Mayan literacy and so on. I think that claim that the BoM itself teaches a LGM is simply untenable. The only reason why people would claim such a thing is that they have gained knowledge which was not available until well after the BoM’s publication (not to mention Moroni’s death) which makes some of its claims incompatible with its proposed geography.

    This doens’t really say much about the presence of “others” but I don’t think that these “others” really play that big a part in the discussion to be honest.

  13. Jeffrey, I’m rather surprised you’d make that claim. To say that the BoM doesn’t internally assert a LGM seems contradictory to the text. You can’t say that the distances in the text aren’t significant with regard to the size of the land the Nephites covered. It seems that paragraph is intrinsically contradictory.

    I don’t see LGM as ad hoc at all. It arised primarily from actually reading the text in a non-superficial manner.

  14. I had the feeling that my paragraph wasn’t written very well. Let me try again.

    1. The BoM claims to be Hemispheric in its scope. Almost all readers felt this as does most everybody who reads it for the first time today.
    2. The BoM also claims that people could travel distances in times which are simply implausible given a hemispherical model.
    3. However, these distances only seem implausible given an understanding of the geographic terrain involved as well as man’s capacities for travel. This knowledge wasn’t very available until this last century.
    4. It was only in the context of this knowledge becoming more available the the LGM was proposed. Before this time, nobody saw any reason for such a model, and who had read the book very carefully resisted the model very strongly.
    5. Thus there arose two aspects of the BoM which stood in contradiction to one another: the hemispheric claims (which should not be ignored as they now seem to be) and its claims regarding internal consistency as to geographic relations (which are now being emphasized, especially with the DNA evidence coming to light).
    6. The LGM is not ad hoc in response to the DNA evidence, but it is in response to the knowledge gained in #3.
    7. The best bet of saving some historical face, in my opinion, would be to buy into a fairly strong version of Blake’s expansion theory.

  15. Jeffrey and Clark, a story you may or may not find interesting: I first read the BoM when I was in my mid-30s and had already spent years living in Central America. Given my knowledge of geography, I always assumed Mesoamerica as the setting, not the entire hemisphere. The Panama isthmus would never work at the “narrow neck” because it was impassable and not a trafficked point, but the Isthmus of Tehuantepec was. In addition, by then I had seen considerable evidence that Americans may have come from other areas besides Asia (I personally believe Polynesians visited South America regularly, btw). So, I guess my response was different than many others.

  16. Jeffrey, regarding (1) one must distinguish between “the text claims to be hemispheric” versus “most readers initially read it as claiming to be hemispheric.” It seems that unless you think a text means what the typical reader reads it as claiming that this assertion is problematic.

    This is what I typically object to. The idea that the typical reader is the criteria for what a text means. Yet this tends to be a frequently implicit assumption in these discussions. That’s what I was surprised about. From prior discussions I wouldn’t have thought you’d make that kind of claim.

    Certainly the rest I agree with. But it presupposes that those asserting the LGT are doing so because they too adopt this “typical” reading. I just don’t think that is true. In other words your whole argument rests both upon this “typical” reading but also the idea that those espousing the LGT also had the same reading. That is both unsupportable and, in my mind, almost certainly wrong in the majority of cases.

    For the record, despite my mother teaching me the hemispheric model as a kid (until she read Sorenson in the 80’s) I never bought it myself. I’ve also had investigators who read the text and never thought it was hemispheric despite having no contact with FARMS like assertions.

  17. Clark,
    That is exactly what I am claiming. Most readers initially read it as claiming to be hemispheric BECAUSE the text claims to be hemispheric. I’ve never seen any verse if the BoM be used to support a LGM which does not depend upon “a closer” or “more scientific” reading of it. When the BoM claims to be covering land Northward, Southward from Sea to Sea, with a little neck of land in the middle, I don’t see any reason to suspect anything other than a hemispheric model.j

    I simply think that the most straight forward reading is that the book claims to be hemispheric in geographical scope but is extremely mixed up in the details of what that would entail.

  18. I think that the text is vague and unable to be applied hemispherically. The close reading isn’t scientific, it’s just a matter of looking at the days claimed. The reason most interpreted hemispherically is because of the silly assumption that the narrow neck of land is central America. But that’s just bad, superficial reading.

    Reader response criticism is not, in my opinion, useful for understanding the meaning of a text. It’s unfortunate in my view that this is what most criticisms come down to. This isn’t just an issue with the Book of Mormon but with regard to literature in general. (i.e. this is something independent of the DNA issue)

  19. Here are my thoughts on the “Overview” section of Lindsay:

    1. It is very clearly an argument against the “utter refutation” of the BoM by DNA evidence. Fair enough, tough I don’t think the strength of the DNA evidence lies in its utter refutation, rather in its casting doubt upon.
    2. It as an argument for the divine origin of the book. That’s fine, but as I stated previously, this also beside the point…not to mention entirely outside the bounds of science.
    3. It is an argument from a believer’s point of view, including many assumptions about the truth of the book. This is fine too, as long as we don’t expect non-believers to embrace it.
    4. It relies heavily on the Limited Geography Model (LGM) which, as pointed out in previous comments, is clearly an ad hoc response to criticism of the contents of the book itself. Eg: “The Book of Mormon deals with a few groups of people in a small geographical area.” This ad hoc construction works well for DNA evidence for the same reason that it works for the BoM’s own internal inconsistencies: it is sufficiently flexible and vague as to account for the inconsistencies, but really just moves the ball away from verifiability.
    5. It suggests that the DNA evidence is not scientifically sound by conflating the data with a reference to anti-mormon attacks (non-scientific) and comparing these to the apologist writings (also non-scientific) of believing scientists. This is classic misdirection, where the real issue remains neither the claims of antagonist nor protagonist, but the data itself and the method by which it was derived.
    6. It furthers point 4 when it relies on the fallacy that lack of evidence is proof of existence by arguing that DNA evidence does not rule out the BoM. Again, the point isn’t whether the data disproves the BoM, but whether it casts serious doubts upon it.

    I’ll go back to reading…but so far my take is that, while I totally respect Lindsay’s desire to take a believing view of things, this does not change the fact that many of our cherished beliefs around the BoM are being substantially challenged. We are being backed into a corner where resorting to “faith only” or other such increasingly un-provable claims are all we are allowed.

    This is far from the hope we once claimed for the inevitable proving-out of our faith.

  20. I agree with Clark that the BoM does not require, and barely suggests, a hemispheric approach. However, the LA Times has touched on a point that many LDS remain unaware of, which is the wholesale shift among LDS to the Mesoamerican LGT. This theory has even made it to the cover of lesson manuals and other Church materials. The irony of the LGT is that Mayan civilization is one of the least likely candidates for a Lehite civilization in the world.

    How could a boatload of Nephites, arguing among themselves, quickly dominate a much larger, older, well-established society that had its own unique written language? And then leave behind not a trace of evidence of their existence while the society they purportedly dominated carried on?

    Some apologists dispute that the Nephites dominated Mayan society, but the kings and priests were Nephites, the political structure was established by Nephites, the currency and writing was Nephite, the given names were Nephite, and the dominant historical record was Nephite. Others say that the Nephite culture took hundreds of years to develop, but even if it did (and I don’t think the text supports that), the other dominant Nephite elements were well-established at least by the time of King Benjamin through Alma and up to the visit of Christ.

    I think the FARMS-minded apologists are painting themselves–and by extension the Church–into an increasingly small corner with the Mesoamerican LGT theory.

    The other irony of the Mesoamerican LGT is its complete reliance on cursory and confusing asides about geography, which are then rotated about 90 degrees and imposed on Mesoamerica. The whole LGT is a square peg in a round hole, just waiting for an article comparable to the LA Times’ DNA discussion.

    On the other hand, for me there is a convincing case that the Nephites inhabited central North America as Joseph Smith described them, but that’s a discussion beyond the scope of this thread.

  21. Clark,

    I would usually agree with you to a greater extent but I simply don’t think that your response works given the coming forth of the BoM. Despite what many member may think today, the BoM was written for the 19th century saints, not us. Joseph translated it in a way that would make it understandable to people in his context. I don’t think that these readers thought of the geography as being vague as to its scope at all. They felt that they understood in correctly, and an inspired translation would have taken this into account. The 19th century reader’s reaction is the best way to understand the actual meaning of this particular text.

    When phrases such as THE narrow neck of land, THE land northward/southward and THE westward/eastward sea those readers would have knew exactly what it was talking about without a second thought.

  22. I’m afraid that’s fine if we’re talking about broad theological issues. I don’t think it applies to historical issues.

    But my point is more primarily a hermeneutic claim. I think reader response criticism (which is what most of these reduce to) is simply very bad hermeneutics.

    Whether 19th century figures felt they were reading it correctly seems irrelevant. When you consider how rarely 19th century Mormons actually read the book let alone studied it carefully then that suggests strong caution on how we take their views. The relative rarity of quotations let alone analysis of the text in the 19th century as compared to the Bible suggests that perhaps 19th century people aren’t the best place to go for understanding.

  23. Jonathan (#22), “However, the LA Times has touched on a point that many LDS remain unaware of, which is the wholesale shift among LDS to the Mesoamerican LGT. “

    If there was this wholesale shift among LDS how couldn’t they be aware of it? Or do you mean those who adopt a more close or scholarly reading of the text as opposed to the average member who does nothing more than read a little bit a year? (That’s not a criticism btw, since I know tone sometimes doesn’t communicate well – I’m honestly curious)

    I do agree that by the end of the 80’s the LGT was pretty ubiquitous among “scriptorians.” And I think even most of the GAs probably were at least aware of it. Now I think people think something close to Sorenson is right, even if everyone would admit Sorenson’s work is speculative (as are its competitors) and would hesitate about pinpointing a specific place.

    This, to me, makes the continued current edition of the BoM that much more surprising. While it’s obviously not my call and I make no criticism of those in charge, were I in charge I’d probably commission a bunch of paintings that adopt something like the Sorenson model and then provide a new edition of the scriptures which has explanatory notes on these issues along with a complete rewrite of the introduction.

    Regarding Nephi domination, I actually am not at all convinced from the text that there was Nephite domination. It seems to me that the Nephites were always fairly small and that the Lamanites composed numerous different tribes all roughly put together.

    I do agree that some apologetic models go too far in their claims. But I’m not sure its fair to lump them all together.

    I certainly agree that there are some big holes in the mesoAmerican theory with explanations for the holes that have varying degrees of persuasiveness. But I find the models that postulate an eastern US site for the Book of Mormon are massively more problematic.

  24. Jonathon N:

    How could a boatload of Nephites, arguing among themselves, quickly dominate a much larger, older, well-established society that had its own unique written language? And then leave behind not a trace of evidence of their existence while the society they purportedly dominated carried on?

    Actually, nobody makes the claim that the Nephites were the Maya. And, actually, the Maya flourished long after the book claims the Nephites died. And, actually, nobody can read what the Mayan glyphs say at around the time the two civilizations would have overlapped. So… this just proves why most of these debates and arguments are silly: because people who have the debates or make the arguments usually are a. ignorant to the basic facts of what Sorenson’s book, “An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon” says, because they haven’t read it (i.e. Jeffrey Gilliam) or, b. they haven’t really studied the specifics about the time frames that Sorenson proposes (e.g. Jonathon.)

    Of course, this is the blogosphere, which is where uninformed opinion and badly formed logic rule, right?

  25. Clark: Were I in charge I’d probably commission a bunch of paintings that adopt something like the Sorenson model and then provide a new edition of the scriptures which has explanatory notes on these issues along with a complete rewrite of the introduction.

    This is actually what’s been in the “Primary Cartoon Edition” of the Book of Mormon for at least the last 7 years: a very Mesoamerican-centric looking set of lamanites and nephites. Also, if you go to the Visitors centers it’s mesoamerican-centric and if you watch any of the movies the church has produced they’re all pretty meso-american centric…

  26. #7 Watt, re: I agree that the book itself appeals primarily to a faith-based approach of verification. Nevertheless, the premise of the book and basic doctrinal teachings that encompass its coming forth, screamout to be verified in the physical world. That verification will take place and we will live with the results, even if it means accepting the book entirely on faith.

    I agree with the Church’s statement, “The strongest witness of the Book of Mormon is to be obtained by living the Christ-centered principles contained in its pages and by praying about its truthfulness.”

    This is same story, different scene as explained a couple millenia ago:
    “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14) Rationalists continue to protest, “but I don’t understand,” and they always won’t until the depend upon devine light instead of their own.

  27. As much as I hate to break up all of the wonderful faith-promoting dialogue going on here, I would like to point out that, as somebody who has actually spent nearly two decades traveling to and living in Central America, the Mesoamerican model is actually quite persuasive. Joseph L Allen’s “Exploring the Lands of the Book of Mormon” actually goes through the BoM verse by verse and links every single geographic reference to physical places. I have personally been to many of these sites (most of them before I was a member of the Church). I would recommend it to all of our learned skeptics.

  28. For the record I’ve read Sorenson’s book 3 times as well as two of his other books on the subject. I know what Sorenson claims.

    Sorry, based on the way you were arguing, it seemed as though you had clearly misunderstood some of the basic premises of Sorenson’s book (ie a close reading of the text is necessary in order to figure out what it means, etc.) and therefore hadn’t read them…

  29. I think his point Nonny is simply that he disagrees that a close reading of the text is necessary to understand it. That’s what I find so unexpected.

  30. Geoff,

    I’ve read Allen’s book as well. In fact on my mission (guatemala) I took all the maps which he proposed and put them into one big 5×8 map of “BoM lands”. I think that his reasoning is a little shallow, though I do think that his discussion regarding the location of Cumorah to be the best I’ve read so far.


    I know what Sorenson says about evaluating the text. I think he is wrong. He assumes that the BoM is a historical record (which isn’t that big of a deal I suppose). Where he really misteps in my opinion is in his treatment (or better said non-treatment) of the translation process. The text came to us through JS and to leave JS out of the process would be a grave error.

  31. I agree to leave JS out of the distortion process is a mistake, and I also agree that too many geographical arguments require a tight translation process. But I’m not sure including JS in the translation process entails what you appear to be asserting. (Especially given his educational background at the time)

    I prefer to think that JS’ role entails more vagueness and not less as I sense you seem to be asserting. i.e. the text is more open. That doesn’t invalidate many geographic speculations. It does render their textual support more unsure though.

  32. manaen (30):

    What exactly was it in my comment (7) that you found to contradict? If anything, you should be pleased with my statement because it suggests that there will be nothing left to distract folks from a purely spritual acceptance of the BoM. i.e. either you know it’s true by faith, or you know nothing.

  33. Well yes, I agree it is a more straightforward reading. My position is that straightforward readings are often wrong. Especially of texts focused on events outside of what is typical within ones world. Translations that much more so.

    Consider the way folks from the same era read the NT. And note that many Evangelicals follow the same line of reasoning you present so as to argue God ensured the NT was written so everyone would understand and thus the straightforward reading is to be trusted above close readings – especially scholarly readings. I’m reminded of the words of a former governor of Texas: if English was good enough for Jesus it is good enough for me.

    As I said, I think the approach you take is deeply problematic. To the degree that similar views underlie many critics then I find it a huge flaw in their arguments.

    But I’m definitely repeating myself now. So I’ll end that line of questioning.

  34. Watt #37, obviously believing Latter-day Saints who have received a testimony through the Holy Ghost have the strongest possible witness of the truth of the BoM that one could have. But there are a tremendous amount of people who have not received that kind of testimony for one reason or another. Many of them have spent all of their lives in Latter-day Saint homes and still, for some strange reason, never get a true, undeniable witness. Yet, we would still like them to plant seeds of faith that will one day hopefully sprout into real testimonies. If we tell them there is simply no reason to believe the BoM except for “faith,” we are 1)lying because there are reasons to believe that can be found in the available evidence and 2)not providing fertile ground for faith to sprout.

  35. Geoff B,

    Excellent point. Which leads back to the problem with non-spiritual evidence…first that it is in fact core even to the spiritual discovery process (no suprise there…all things are spiritual unto me), and second, that such evidence is particularly vulnerable to doubt being cast upon it by the king of non-spiritual evidentiary discovery: science.

    This is why the somewhat uniquely mormon belief that real world, physical evidence is naturally tied to spiritual truth…a la the BoM…has been so expectant of physical verification. And this is the same reason why the as yet apparent failure of such verification is so bitter a pill.

  36. This is wacky. I can’t read the BoM with a hemispheric setting in mind. So what if folks from yesteryear read it that way? Shall we read the “book of nature” the way the did too? The “problem” with the “sea north” and the “sea south” is *still* a problem if one takes it too literally. How many folks today are living along the arctic coast? Are settling the tundra? That bleak picture simply does not match the image that Mormon conveys, IMO. Mormon also says that the people began to cover the face of the whole earth. Did our 19th century friends assume that he meant every continent? Of course not. That would be like Rome taxing every people in every continent when the decree went forth from Augustus that “all the world should be taxed.”

  37. The story was picked up by anthropologist John Hawks.

    “It’s also interesting to see the varied way that religious traditions respond. Some simply deny the relevance of science, of course. Others differentiate the subjects into categories appropriate to science (history of life) and religion (morality).

    The LDS response quoted in the article has a great deal of genealogical sophistication — it is much like the way that anthropologists argue about the persistence or swamping of Neandertal DNA, for example. Definitely different traditions respond to scientific insights in different ways! “

    I’d like to think that we can take that as a compliment.

  38. Watt, all religions have the same issues with spiritual and physical evidence. Yet ours is the only one with actual physical evidence in the form of a book that was not there one day and there two months later (as well as 11 witnesses who put their names on said book). Whether or not people choose to accept the evidence is part of the testing process, of course.

    Meanwhile, it is about time I reminded you of our comments policy. There are plenty of other boards to frequent if you’d like to pursue your line of inquiry. This board is about building up faith, not breaking it down. I’d respectfully ask you to keep that in mind for future comments.

  39. “yet ours is the only one with actual physical evidence in the form of a book that was not there one day and there two months later”

    I think that’s basically part of what I said in 40.

    I’m sorry that you consider my comments destructive to faith. Please do me the kindness of pointing out where I have denigrated or been otherwise inconsiderate of the faith of others. If you consider the discussion of the challenges we all face to our faith an attack upon faith…well, I think that rather confuses the issues discussed with my person. I also find the discussion we’re having well within the bounds of faith promoting discussion.

    Additionally, I would ask why you’ve singled me out for this warning.

  40. What if I told you of a book that was true, and if you read this book you would feel the Spirit of God testify that it was true. Furthermore, this book is a record of people who lived on another planet who have gone through the same problems we have and it was received through revelation.

    Would it be hard to believe in something without any substantiation other than the Spirit? Could you believe in such a book, because the Book of Mormon is very similar in the sense that very little can be proved. Certainly there are Chiasms, and travel routes that Joseph Smith could not know about that he describes in the Book, but there are also a number of unresolved questions about the Book of Mormon.

    Are we given enough evidence to believe either way and therefore we are allowed to chose if we have a desire to believe? Or is there an abundance of evidence for the Book of Mormon and a little evidence against it, but it is human nature to remember bad much more than good. I know in the military they’d say it takes 10 attaboys to erase one oops (10 good jobs to erase one mistake).

    OR is everyone expected to receive a spiritual witness that rests on the strength of your relationship with God. I know when I’m closer to the Lord I have less doubt. I can read the same critique and see through it or not be bothered by it. When I’m not living the gospel as well as I should be I find the criticisms have a lot more sting.

    Oh and why is everyone treating this DNA evidence as if it eclipses the doctrine that a significant portion of native Americans have Lamanite heritage? All it proves is that when Nephi left, immediately preceding the babylonian captivity the DNA did not match the Jews of today. Isn’t it possible that some of the jews went into mongolia or siberia after the captivity? Jewish migrations have occurred all over the world, that could explain why native American DNA matches mongolian and siberian DNA.

  41. Watt, great to see we agree on the Book of Mormon and the purpose and comments policy of this blog. I must have simply misunderstood the intent of your many, many comments here. I’ll take your response as a full-fledged testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith as the restorative prophet. Onward and upward to spreading the Truth to others! Would you like to share any recent stories of how you have helped lift the faith of people with questions about DNA analysis, for example, and helped nurture them back to the Lord’s Church? What key insights did you give them to help them return to activity?

  42. Geoff B

    I was enjoying a very well informed discussion and debate until your post #46.

    Is all intellectual curiosity supposed to be turned off in favor of a testimony meeting?

  43. I’m surprised no one has pointed out one of the big weaknesses of Southerton’s arguments, that of relying solely on mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosome DNA which can each disappear by intermarriage and genetic bottlenecks.

    mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA only identify two straight lines, patri-lineal and matri-lineal. Going to a level 10 generations back, they only identify ONE male ancestor out of a possible 512 men, and ONE female ancestor out of a possible 512 women. Allowing for ancestor duplication due to marriage of cousins, 2nd cousins, etc, such DNA still identifies only 1 male and 1 female out of dozens or scores of ancestors at that level.

    Whether intermarriage with other peoples began early in the Nephite/Lamanite dynasties, or after the Nephite destruction of 421 AD, nothing in the BoM rules out the genetic mixing with Asiatic peoples.

    To be “principally descended” from Lehites does not preclude the possibility of non-Lehite DNA in either the mtDNA or the Y-chromosome. That only requires 2 out of many ancestors to be non-Lehite.

    Southerton’s false assertion, which the media and lukewarm Book of Mormon defenders don’t seem to be challenging, is that the Amer-Indians can’t even be partially descended from Hebrews, when in fact, analysis of mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA alone doesn’t support that conclusion.

    I recently saw a PBS program about tracing DNA of African-Americans. The narrator, who claimed to be African-American, and who clearly appeared to be African-American, had both European mtDNA and a European Y chromosome. Obviously, someone in his patrilineal ancesty was European, and someone in his matrilineal ancestry was European. Yet he legitimately claimed African heritage through documenting his many other African ancestors.

    I’m a convert, and since joining I never thought that Amer-Indians were 100% Hebrew. I never concluded that from the Book of Mormon or any church literature. I feel sorry for those born in the church who grew up thinking the American Indians were 100% Israelite/Josephite.

    I’m frustrated by some of the lukewarm defenders of the Book of Mormon who are granting some of Southerton’s claims that are _not_ supported by the genetic evidence.

    Even if you assume Southerton (or anyone) can know what modern Israelite/Josephite Y-chromosome-DNA or mtDNA must look like, it’s ridiculous to assume that it must still be identifiable in a population that has had opportunities to intermix with other peoples for 1600 to 2600 years. (Depending on whether you start counting at 600 BC or 421 AD.) 1600 years could easily encompass 64 generations!

    The Book of Mormon is silent about who was here prior to 600BC, silent about who else may have immigrated to the continent during the Nephite dynasty, and obviously does not speak to who may have came here after 421 AD.

    I have a Jewish father and a gentile mother. My and my sister’s mtDNA
    is therefore probably not identifiable with modern Jews. None of my sister’s children will have “Jewish” mtDNA. And if my sister married a gentile, her sons wouldn’t have a “Jewish” Y-chromosome. Yet my nieces and nephews would still be able to legitimately claim a Jewish heritage without Jewish mtDNA and without a Jewish Y-Chromosome.

    And no matter who I marry, if I don’t have sons, my Jewish Y-chromosome dead ends.

    It is easy to see how such inter-mixing and dead-ending of mtDNA and Y-chromosome DNA could occur over scores of generations, especially if the Lehite party found itself outnumbered by even a slightly larger indigenous population upon arrival.

    The propensity of ancient peoples to make dynastic marriages between groups would also tend to dilute and “dead end” any Israelite DNA if the Lehites started out as a minority among pre-established indigenous peoples.

    All it really takes to blow Southerton out of the water is an understanding of high-school level genetics and a little bit of logic.

  44. This makes my 8th comment out of 47 total. Perhaps that is too many…I wasn’t counting.

    So you do find my discussion of the challenges to our faith to be the equivalent of an attack on our faith…I’m sorry about that…particularly since I am not the only one discussing it. But I do admit that I have taken the position that we should be concerned about and deal directly with these challenges, rather than ignore or talk over them…or diminish them. And again, I am not the only one to have expressed this, but for some reason you feel I alone have crossed the line.

    I am also surprised that, rather than simply pointing out where I had crossed the line, you chose sarcasm. If I said something to earn this disrespect, I’m sorry.

  45. Geoff B: You didn’t misunderstand Watt. He’s playing the same anti-mormon RfM games of sowing doubt here using disingenuousness as he has on other blogs.

  46. Bookslinger, if all I ever accomplish is to off-set the crazy stuff you tend to write…then I’ll be happy. Not all members of the church share your views, though based upon your views I can see how anyone who disagrees with you would automatically fall within the RfM category…in your mind.

    Anyone care to return to topic? Or has my alleged outing as an anti-mormon ruined it?

  47. Watt (#40), why do you think spiritual witness is vulnerable to doubt in the manner you suggest. I recognize that spiritual confirmation is not an either/or propositions. There are degrees of strength. Something we all have to consider. But I think you overestimate the role of science in creating doubt. Looking at polls of the beliefs of not only Americans but Europeans and it seems science plays a very small role in how people decide beliefs, especially religious belief. Now that might be different among the admittedly unrepresentative sampling we find on more academic inclined blogs. But among the population at large I think both doubt and belief come rather differently.

    I’m not saying that is a good thing or a bad thing. Just that what one might consider reasonable justification for beliefs seems typically not how people actually make judgments. Something that I’m sure God has to acknowledge.

    Geoff (#43), I actually don’t think all religions do face the same issues ours does. While there are a few Mormons who seem able to allegorize the Book of Mormon, I think that largely our faith rises or falls with the historicity of the text. I don’t think that’s true of say Protestantism. There are a few things that must be taken as historical: primarily the main events of the NT. But the rest can be discounted and the story of Christ is largely unfalsifiable. That’s not to say there aren’t very liberal Protestants and Catholics who don’t still largely allegorize most of the Bible including often the story of Christ. But it seems much less significant to the religion than it does in ours.

  48. Well, we might as well kiss the Bible good-bye too if one can only establish it’s truthfulness by virtue of geographical/archeological evidence.

    I don’t get it. The BoM, through and through, reminds us that without faith the things of God are not knowable. And now, watch out! We’re in big trouble because, in lieu of “nonexistent” external evidences, we have to rely on faith in order to come to grips with the Book of Mormon.

    What’s the argument?

  49. Thank you, Clark! πŸ™‚

    Actually what I said was:

    “Which leads back to the problem with non-spiritual evidence…first that it is in fact core even to the spiritual discovery process (no suprise there…all things are spiritual unto me), and second, that such evidence is particularly vulnerable to doubt”

    …that non-spiritual evidence is vulderable to doubt, which I think is the problem with any reliance we place on it…it clearly can be nothing more than a stepping stone at best. At worst it can become a stumbling block; particularly when scientific evidence casts doubt upon it as we see with the topic of this discussion.

    I totally agree with you on how most people arrive at belief.

  50. Ah. OK. Sorry. That antecedent was a tad confusing. I thought “such evidence” referred to spiritual discovery and not the non-spiritual evidence.

    I pretty well agree with you then.

    Getting back to your point #7 though (which I didn’t find nearly as controversial as apparently others did) I’m not sure that the primary evidence for the BoM was ever considered to be physical scientific evidence. Clearly some thought such evidence would come. But it appears to have from day one been seen as a spiritual issue. Indeed the early Saints didn’t, to my mind, appear to place much trust on physical signs. This can be seen both from the internal text of the Book of Mormon (i.e. Nehor, Korihor, and others) but also the condemnations of sign seeking that were common in the early church.

    It’s true that evidence was seen as coming. Indeed the early mesoAmerican evidence was seen by Joseph in apparently that sense. But it seems like signs to maintain and strengthen faith, not generate belief.

    If you feel differently, I wonder if you would mind mentioning the primary passages you feel lead in that direction.

  51. No problem, Clark…now that your point it out, I can see how what I wrote/how I wrote it could easily be misunderstood.

    But to address your very good question, I don’t recall any passage within the BoM that explicitly contemplates the need for physical evidence. However, I arrive at my current understanding based on the implicit…the fact that the book didn’t just magically appear, but was physically translated from physical plates, written upon by a physical being, in the context of a physical reality…and then the additions of physical witnesses…

    For early converts (as well as for us), this crossing of boundaries between the spiritual and physical has profound implications. Just as Joseph Smith’s testamony was not of a spriritual vision, but of a physical god. These things had the powerful effect of removing the divide between strictly spritual realms and that of our own. I don’t think we can overestimate the importance this facet of Mormonism has on its beleivability as a new and unique and true faith.

    But of course, us previously discussed, this is a two-edged sword. The physical evidence can easily become a liability.

    BTW, I don’t consider the physical evidence in the same class of sign-seeking as say a demand to see miraculous proof.

  52. But Watt, if it is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon that provides the signs, then why the taking back of the plates? Why the limited witnesses with some evidence that for most of the witnesses the “seeing” was spiritual. It seems that God has gone out of his way from the beginning to avoid evidence.

    Thus it seems to me that if we are going by the history the presumption is not only that there isn’t a sense of evidence but that God is going out of his way to prevent there being evidence. i.e. that the situation is done in such a way to force the leap of faith into asking God.

    Now certainly I agree with the materialism aspects you mention. But I just don’t see them having the implications you see.

  53. Watt,

    I don’t think it’s a double edged sword because the saints were never required to accept physical evidence in order to establish their faith. They were, however, required to accept the physical *reality* of certain things by virtue of faith. They didn’t view the plates. They didn’t see God in the grove. But they did accept the reality of those events/artifacts.

  54. Clark,

    I agree that there is a question about why the plates where withheld, but I also see nothing explicit that demonstrates that the plates were withheld out of god’s desire to minimize evidence. In fact, the reasons for withholding the plates appear to by mostly mysterious…at least that’s how I understand it. If god intended to withhold physical evidence to promote the virtue of faith, I think he was pretty sloppy about it. πŸ™‚ Why send a physical message when a non-physical one wold have worked as well or better?


    I don’t think they were required to accept physical evidence either, but nonetheless…there it was…

  55. Clark,

    It is my position that Joseph’s interpretation is identical to, or very nearly so, the author of the BoM’s intent. This is what my concept of the translation process. Thus, what Joseph thought was the geographical context of the BoM is very pertinent to the discussion at hand. This is not to say that the reading which everybody else also took from the book for the first 100 years is not relevant though.

  56. Jeff. Yes, I understand your position. I just think it wrong. It would work only if Joseph were not the translator but the author. (And I’m not sure it would work even then since I don’t think authorial intent holds mastery over the meaning of a text – but clearly its less of an issue than in translation)

    The other problem is that you aren’t limiting yourself to Joseph’s understanding but are including those of his contemporaries. As you say, you take them as relevant. But I don’t quite see why since they tell us nothing of Joseph’s understanding.

    Watt, I think that the point of the plates is to present the Book of Mormon as historical without providing the evidence that it is historical. If the text alone was given then I think the allegorizing interpretation would simply be taken as more of an acceptable interpretation.

  57. I have a political blog, not a religious one, but I got into this subject a little today here.:

    As my post today notes, I had a short e-mail exchange with Hugh Hewitt, who is devoting some time on his talk show to this. He interviewed the author of the Times article Thursday, and says he’ll have two LDS DNA experts on his show next Tuesday or Wednesday. Should be worth listening to. He has many more listeners than the L.A. Times has subscribers.

  58. I don’t think that such a position requires Joseph to be the author at all, only a strong harmony between the two.

    I think that the opinion of others matter not in interpreting Joseph’s position, but rather in what the pre-scientific reading of the BoM is, as difficult as it is for us to imagine now.

    I’m sure that this comes as nothing new to Clark, but its good for others to understand as well.

  59. I’ve just deleted the first comment in this thread (it was not by Watt). I will remind commenters to keep the tone of their comments uplifting and positive about the Church. Sorry if the faith-destroying anti-Mormons (who have nothing better to do with their time than to hang out on boards that are positive about the Church) believe this is censorship. I would encourage them to go to other boards where they can vent their views at will.

  60. Bookslinger #50, I’m familiar with the ex-Mormon and RfM games. They’ve spent their time sowing doubt and discord here before. I’ve seen some evidence that we’ve actually succeeded in getting a few of them to change their ways and perhaps even helped them return to the Church in the process. One of the things that happens is that they look at themselves and realize that they just spent a Friday night carefully crafting responses that are just doubtful enough about the Church to get posted — but not quite over the line into overt anti-Mormon territory — and they wake up Saturday morning realizing what pathetic human beings they have become. I’m hopeful that will happen eventually with Watt and Marion and their ilk. They may not love themselves right now, but I still care about their souls, and most importantly, the Savior is waiting for them to have the necessary change of heart.

    In the meantime, I will remind commenters on this board, which supports the Church of Jesus Christ without reservations, to be uplifting and positive about the Church. Thank you.

  61. Watt: “I don’t think they were required to accept physical evidence either, but nonetheless…there it was…”

    What physical evidence was there? Do you mean the plates that were viewed and handled by eleven witnesses? The 19th century saints had to believe on the account of witnesses just like we do today. I don’t see any difference.

  62. Jack,

    Yes, the plates…whether experienced first-hand or second. Also the physical nature of the translation process, including the fact that it was conducted through a physical man. Also the very presentation of the message in the form a historical record, while not itself a physical object, is in physical context with ties to physical reality which beg verification.

  63. Jeff: I was surprised to see that you believe that the BofM compels a hemispheric reading — or is otherwise absurd. For the record, it seems to me that everyone involved in the discussion ought to agree on the following:

    1. The limited geographic model appeared historically before DNA, before serious archaeological concerns and from a reading of the text itself. I know that I adopted it personally based on a reading of the text alone (while on my mission). Charges that it is ad hoc are simply in error.

    2. The area actually described in which the actions take place covers a very small area. Certainly Joseph smith knew better than we do what it meant to walk for five days to go from Palmyra to Harmony Pa. In any event, the map of cities actually discussed is within a week to ten days of walking by an army (which is slower than walking alone BTW). So the internal events mapping of the book is inconsistent with a hemispheric model.

    3. There were several million amerindians already present in the Americas in about 600 B.C. and the DNA of a party the size of Lehi’s (and we don’t know how large Amulek’s was) would almost certainly disappear due to bottle necks etc. if there were intercourse between these groups. Virtually everyone in the discussion agrees with this assessment, including Southerton.

    4. The hemispheric model dominated early interpretation of the book — but the early interpretation tended not to be careful in its reading and is based on suppositions (like the unwarranted supposition that there is only one narrow neck of land in all of the north and south americas).

    5. As we read the book, it is impossible to divorce ourselves from the knowledge of various issues that compel a limited geography reading.

    6. It is common in ancient cultures to adopt a universal theological view that is at odds with the geographic realities (like all of the land of the ancient Middle East belonging to the Isrealites tho they inhabited only a very small part of it). So it is quite consistent with the BofM being ancient that it adopts a theological universality of possession or rights to a promised land that is far vaster than the areas where the events described in the book took place.

    7. The language and conceptuality of the BofM has been influenced by and is limited to the abilities of Joseph Smith to express it — whether a translation or his work alone.

    In any event, the reductio of accepting the BofM that you express (it’s not really an argument) in #12 is based on several false dichotomies it seems to me.

  64. The reference to Amulek above should say “Mulek” — tho I was thinking that Amulek was a descendant of Mulek and hence there was a tie betweeen these names and so I inadvertantly wrote Amulek.

  65. Geoff,

    While I appreciate your concern at my less than orthodox approach and thoughts…I find it distressing that you continue to frame your concerns in an “us vs them” kind of divisive way. The only derogatory and demeaning comments I have seen on this thread have come from you and Bookslinger.

    Why is it that you only see my offence…a mild one in my opinion…and not your own?

  66. Blake,

    I don’t agree with some of your points:

    1. Reading the text itself with a decent knowledge of the geography of central and south america certainly leads one to suspect a more limited geography, but without hardly any knowledge of the geography at all, the natural reading is definitely one of a hemispherical model. I do think that the LGM is ad hoc in nature. More reasons for this will be provided below.

    2. I agree that when one compares and adds distances this is the conclusion one will reach, however, this assumes interanl consistency within the book itself. While the general directions between Zarahemla and Nephi can be expected to be relatively consistent, I don’t see why it should be assumed that the other geographical description should be consistent with one another; at least not without begging the question of the BoM historicity.

    3. As to the BoM’s affirming the existence of “others” I am a little agnostic though I don’t see any problem with it. As I said, the DNA evidence isn’t very important given my view.

    4. I addressed this in #23 and I stand by my statement.

    5. I’m not sure what knowledge you are talking about here. If you are talking about geography, archeology, anthropology and now DNA then of course such knowledge will color our reading, but our reading, by my reasoning, is not the intended one.

    6. This is interesting, but it too seems a little ad hoc.

    7. I agree with this, but I think that the tie between the BoM intention and JS is even stronger than that. See comments 60 and 63.

    These comments should make my #12 seem a little less childish I hope.

  67. Jeff: What is needed here is some exposure to hermeneutics. The notion of a discernible authorial intention is rather naive as a way of approaching texts. In particular, we must pay attention to the hermeneutic circle. We bring ourselves to the text and we cannot do otherwise.

    Re: 1. It really isn’t a matter for dispute. The LGM made its appearance before DNA and before archaeology suggested a more limited setting. It is a matter of simple historical fact. Calling it ad hoc is therefore just a failure to pay attention.

    Re: 2. You’d have so show the alleged inconsistencies here. The geography is entirely consistent in itself.

    Re: 3. I think we’re in agreement here — and that’s the big issue.

    Re: 4. How earlier saints read the BofM is beside the point, especially given their rather naive assumptions about it.

    Re: 5. How do you propose to get back to some (single?) authorial intention?

    Re: 6. The fact that you see this as ad hoc explains quite a bit actually. Rather than reading a text as if you could do so without your own assumptions, it is important to look at how ancient texts function given our own knowledge (since we cannot do otherwise) and the assumptions and world-view that drives the text. Your assumption that we can do other than read the text given the fact this is us reading the text is the primary problem here.

    Re: 7. I am open to the possibility that there is a lot of JS in the BofM, it still doesn’t address the geographical limitations in the text itself. If JS thought the the text was hemispheric, how come the cities in the book are only days away by foot? Certainly you don’t think JS was naive about how far one could walk in a week or two, do you? So you have a real problem in your approach here. If JS wrote it and/or it is his intent that is expressed, then why don’t the geographical locations of the various cities align with that hemispheric supposition?

  68. 1. I don’t think it ad hoc to DNA and archeology so much as it is to geography is general. I don’t think that this is a failure to pay attention.

    2. Perhaps consistency isn’t the right word I’m looking for, but it’s not all that bad a word either. I’m saying that suggesting that since there was only a weeks travel between cities demonstrates a more limited geography presupposes tha the microgeography (between cities) is consistent with the macrogeography. Even given a hemispheric model, the only lands which are ever described are nephite and the lamanites are supposed to vastly out number them. Thus, while the land which is actually described with cities and the like might not have covered the entire hemisphere (the BoM clearly doesn’t commit itself to that), it certainly does seem to claim that all the land covered by the nephites and lamanites (much of which goes without notice) does cover the whole continents. Combine this with my comments in 7 and I don’t think my position looks all that naive.

    5. When I say “author” I mean whoever wrote it whether it be one person or many. Of course most of the geography comes from Mormon, so the singular may not be all that bad. I don’t expect to be able to get back to the original authors intent with any approach of my own, however I think that the safest way by far to get at this author’s intent is through Joseph’s interpretation of the text. Thus we should frame the discuss in a 19th century light rather than a 20th century interpretation of ancient meso-american light. I think that this is the error which virtually all Mormons are making in this matter, they insist on framing the discussion as if the BoM were actually free from all 19th century contextuality. While I don’t think that signature is exactly right either, I think that FARMS is way off. I thought that you, Blake, of all people would see this in your expansion theory, though I must confess to accepting a far stronger version of it than you probably do.

    6. I don’t think that you are being as generous here as you could be. I’m not refusing to adopt any ancient context (well I guess I actually am, but this was not my objection here in 6). Instead, I’m saying that simply applying what SOME ancients did to this context without any independent reasoning for doing so seems quite ad hoc to me. I see no reason for attributing that particular worldview to the people in question other than a desire compensate for cognitive dissonance.

    7. I don’t think that Joseph considered it possible to travel 100’s of miles per day (although there were chariots were there not?). Instead I think it far more probable that Joseph simply didn’t realize how big the distances really were. I don’t think that Joseph was stupid, only perhaps a little ignorant maybe? This is what Mormons are continually claiming as proof of the divine nature of the translation process.

  69. Jeff: Here is the difference bewteen the way we approach the text. Since I have already decided that there are several features of the BofM that can only be explained (or overwhelmingly are most plausibly explained) if it is ancient in some respects, I look at the text and bring my knowledge of both ancient and 19th century worlds (as far as I can) to it. I notice cultural influences and world-views that are expressive of both. When I look at it I ask: what sense does this make as an ancient document? That teases out possibilities and new ways of seeing the text and making sense of it. If that doesn’t fit, then I ask: Why doesn’t it make sense and what resources are there to see it as an expresion of Joseph Smith?

    You seem to me to start with the view that Joseph Smith is responsible for its contents (which obviously he is in some respects) and assume that we must interpret it from that perspective. But I don’t see anything from you that would bring the ancient horizon of the text into view. Further, you seem to think that you can read the text as if you didn’t live in the 20th and 21st centuries. Your reading in fact assumes that you can escape your own skin it seems to me.

    Now transcendence of our limited view is a problem for everyone and we all bring our presuppositions to the text. That is inevitable. But it seems to me that we must do the best we can to account for our prejudices, presuppositions and prior commitments (without necessarily abandoning them!) when we read the text. Those who don’t have a background in at least some ancient languages and cultures are, it seems to me, disqualified from even attempting the comparison that is necessary to read the BofM text as I do.

    As for JS’s ignorance of how big the world was — that just isn’t plausible. He knew far better than you how long it took to walk for days at a time and he undoubtedly had looked at a map and knew that the distance between Harmony and Palmyra was a mere pin-point on the map compared to the time it would take to walk across a continent. So your presupposition here is just not credible. Your reading doesn’t do justice to the text and its limited geography.

  70. Is the “narrow neck of land” mentioned in the BoM post 34 AD?

    Given all the upheavals of land surface, places sinking into the water, places raised up out of the water, and graphic descriptions on how the land was changed, pre-34 AD descriptions of an isthmus might grnot be observable after 34 AD.

  71. Wow Geoff!

    That was your article?

    Gee, if I’d had any idea that I was trashing an article by someone I know, I would have toned my criticism down a bit. Of course, rudely criticizing people you don’t know is perfectly OK …

    Once again, I’ve been burned by the artificial sense of anonymity that pervades internet communication.

  72. Bookslinger said:

    “Given all the upheavals of land surface, places sinking into the water, places raised up out of the water, and graphic descriptions on how the land was changed, pre-34 AD descriptions of an isthmus might grnot be observable after 34 AD.”

    Wow. Not only do we have the LGT, we now have LOST, Limited Offshore Sandbar Theory.

  73. Jeffrey, I’m sorry this might seem like yet another attempt to pummel you, but that’s really not my intent. I really am just trying to get a grip on exactly what it is you’re proposing…

    You said, I’m saying that suggesting that since there was only a weeks travel between cities demonstrates a more limited geography presupposes tha the microgeography (between cities) is consistent with the macrogeography. Even given a hemispheric model, the only lands which are ever described are nephite and the lamanites are supposed to vastly out number them. Thus, while the land which is actually described with cities and the like might not have covered the entire hemisphere (the BoM clearly doesn’t commit itself to that), it certainly does seem to claim that all the land covered by the nephites and lamanites (much of which goes without notice) does cover the whole continents.

    So, let me get this straight: in order to deal with the consistency problems given in a hemispheric reading of the “whole land” and “land to the north” and “land to the south” and the clear fact that whoever wrote the book (be it Joseph or an ancient author or some combination of the two) understood very clearly the distances covered between cities, what you’re substantively positing here is a limited geography within a broader geography.

    These facts might have made your arguments seem a little less silly/naive earlier on…

    Of course, if this really _is_ what you believe, what’s to stop people from saying that the best place for the limited geography of travel time to be situated is in Mesoamerica?

  74. ANM,

    You should not limit my views so much.

    What I was saying is that the BoM clearly identifies itself as not accounting for all of the BoM people. In other words, while it says that the entire hemisphere was covered with Lehi’s descendants, it really only reports the internal geography of the land where the Nephites happened to dwell. In other words, no matter how limited one wants to make BoM lands based upon internal geography, the extent of Lehi’s descendants was actually much bigger. (At minimum twice as large.) In other words, by the BoM the LGM wasn’t very limited by much any account and its hard to place an upper limit on how large it actually was based solely upon internal geography. Luckily, the book itself calls for a hemispheric model, so we don’t have to guess about that.

    This should be taken IN ADDITION TO the limitations of JS’s understanding of both the micro and macro geography of the americas. This is why nobody (in the Mormon community) even questioned the hemispheric model until more information in these areas came to light.

    Thus I don’t maintain that the author understood very clearly the distances covered between cities. Nor did they understand how much land they were claiming the story covered. Compounding these problems is the fact that the internal distances are never even claimed to be matched up, or to serve as any kind of indication for the macrogeography. The BoM claims to cover the hemisphere, though to internal geography is ever presented of most of that land. Instead it focuses on just a portion of the hemisphere which is was itself meant to be understood as being far bigger than all LGM’s thus proposed.

    It was when people started to realize that people could not travel very far in a couple of days that people ADJUSTED the BoM macrogeography in order to accomodate this knew knowledge. This adjustment was ad hoc in nature.

  75. Jeffrey,

    Do you believe our (relatively) recent doubts about a global flood in the days of Noah and a move toward other explanations such as a local flood or a more allegorical reading of the scriptural account are purely ad hoc in nature? If not, I don’t see why the same can’t apply to our reading of the BoM.

  76. Thanks for the link to Justin Hart’s post and his compilation of useful resources on this issue.

    It’s clear that the LA Times has an ax to grind with the Church.

  77. I agree with RT’s assertion elsewhere that this is mostly a PR problem. I don’t see that DNA evidence will be able to conclusively prove or disprove the BOM. I also don’t see that legitimate disagreements about the substantive implications of this make someone an anti-Mormon.

    In the end, the Church’s official response satisfies me. We should be somewhat educated so that we can discuss these issues intelligently with those that see a problem. There’s no problem if people are interested in this, it’s just not really for me.

    Jeff, I can’t speak as to the agenda of the LAT, but I can say for sure that this discussion will happen in lots of places regardless of their agenda.

  78. Jeff: You say: It was when people started to realize that people could not travel very far in a couple of days that people ADJUSTED the BoM macrogeography in order to accomodate this knew knowledge. This adjustment was ad hoc in nature. Well, wouldn’t that have been long before the BofM appeared in the 19th century? I mean, surely everyone who lived in the New World prior to Joseph knew you couldn’t traverse the entire continent in just a few days of walking {grin}. So I suppose that the day the BofM was published people adopted the ad hoc explanation that it couldn’t cover the entire North and South America because they realized it only described a very limited area?

    Look, the early saints just didn’t read the book very carefully. They were naive and wrong in their assumptions about what what they merely assumed that it said. That’s all there is to it.

    It is not ad hoc to read the book more carefully and notice that any assumption that it describes a hemispheric model is nonsense given the books own internal and very consistent description of the relative distances between the various cities it describes. Further, how could anyone writing from the perspective of such limited knowledge of the actual vast area beyond their exploration even have any idea of two hemispheres?

  79. Jeff and Watt —

    You keep repeating in your comments that the BoM “claims” to be hemispheric in scope. Advocates of the LGT can point to numerous specific verses in the BoM to support that reading. What specific language do you see in the BoM which “claims” a hemisphere-wide reading? I can only think of vague references to “the land” and surely you are not arguing that there is no meaning possible for that term other than “the entire Western Hemisphere.”

    Also, I don’t see how the fact that many early Church members may have read it that way is relevant since (1) it is clear from analysis of early Church preaching that the early Church members really did not read the BoM closely; (2) I don’t see why the interpretation of people with access to less information (19 C Mormons) should be priveleged over the interpretation of readers with more information (late 20 C/ early 21 C Mormon scholars); and (3) what is in the text itself should in any case be more probative than claims by first-time readers who were making assumptions obviously unsupported by the text (as can be seen from the careful reading of those who have come to accept the LGT).

  80. JWL, if you read back his basic thesis is that the book’s primary meaning, since it was directed to the 19th century Saints, is how the 19th century Saints – especially Joseph Smith – took it. That’s just a very problematic premise and, I suspect, very hard to defend. But according to that premise what the text says is largely irrelevant.

  81. JWL,

    Where exactly are these verses which support LGM? All such verses are based on a number of assumptions:
    1) The population could have only grown far slower than what Joseph clearly believed was possible.
    2) That there was a consistent map in which relative distances were more or less grounded.
    3) That the internal distances say anything at all about the macrogeography.

    Additionally, there are other problems which have never been adequately addressed as to the LGM:

    1) The east/west direction problem.
    2) The fact that the narrow neck of land took a day and a half to cross (surely this would suggest Panama).
    3) Not only were JS and BY never corrected in their hemispheric model, but they actually received revelation which SUPPORTED it.
    4) Cumorah in NY was clearly identified as the one in the BoM, both early on by Lucy Smith recollection as well as in revelation itself.
    5) JS did not maintain a consistent map, not by a long shot. JS held that Zarahemla was north of panama and BY said that Manti was in Utah.

    Given all these things it doesn’t really matter if JS actually understood how far a person could travel in a day or not since the distances seemed far from fixed in his mind.

  82. JWL (84), your conversation is entirely with Jeffrey at this point, and I’ve said nothing about the hemispheric model…though I think Jeffery has a valid point. I’m hanging low, but enjoying the insightful conversation. πŸ™‚

  83. Jeffrey,

    The problem is that most experts agree that the BoM is internally consistent regarding geography and demography. And if it is then we simply need to look at what the text says instead of muddling it up with 19th century commentary.

  84. Jeff: Your argument here is both confused and confusing. Why does the LGM need to assume that the population would grow much slower? All advocates of the LGM also believe that there were numerous others already present so the notion of fast population growth supports the LGM rather than challenges it.

    There is a very consistent internal map of the BofM and it is very limited in scope. So it isn’t an assumption — it is demonstrable from the text.

    The internal distances don’t need to say anything about some hypothetical macrogeography because that is soemthing the text knows nothing about except that there is a lot outside of the area where the events described in the book took place. But that also strongly supports the LGM.

    There is no east/west direction problem unless you’re tied to Sorenson’s particular model of LGM. I’m not. However, it is not merely plausible but necessary that an ancient people would not have had the same directional compass as we do and thus the directions North, South, East and West must be translator anachronisms and approximations at best. Your own view would have to accept that point it seems to me.

    Just what JS and BY thought and where they disagreed is beside the point. Heck, BY wasn’t even around or a member when the BofM was translated. Further, who cares what assumptions Lucy made? These inconsistencies in the locations of the BofM sites assumed by early members don’t have any bearing on the LGM. It is what the BofM says that is important.

  85. Geoffrey, I am pausing in reading your article in Meridian to say that I always thought the Indians or more PC, native Americans, were descended from Nephi and those guys. I’ve read the Book of Mormon many times, but am still not conversant with it, but I did think that. Going back to finish…

  86. Well, let me add something. If Lehi had gone back to Jerusalem and brought back “Abraham and all his household” he would have a collection that included three hundred men raised for war from birth, hundreds of servents and others — a collection that religious scholarship puts well past a thousand — which is why Abraham is able to win the battle of the five kings.

    I suspect that the group Nephi brings back is smaller, but …

    It is possible that the labor that Laman and Lemuel are denying Nephi is not the labor of their own hands, but of the servants and others associated with them. That is why they are able to not see the boat until it is completed and then be taken by surprise by a boat that looks like nothing they have ever seen before.

    Or when Nephi leaves with “whoever” the real gripe Laman has is that Nephi leaves with many of the servants and slaves. He and his people then move in with natives.

    Remember the “made us slaves in the wilderness” business. Slaves were to be freed after seven years of service unless they rejected leaving their master’s house. The master at that time could put a nail through their ear and make them a permanent slave. It appears that in the eight years in the wildnerness, as each slave came on the seven year mark, Nephi gave them the choice of living alone in the wilderness or becoming a slave forever (rather than letting them come along as free men in the camp) and they resented that, passing the anger to their children.

    So, the original group with Lehi could well have been several hundred. When Nephi leaves, he could have taken over a thousand souls with him (and I would guess that it was a few hundred who left when he left).

    Which allows Jacob’s community to have leaders with concubines and their wives and children to be completely unaware of it until Jacob preaches that sermon.

    Otherwise, just where do the concubines that the wives don’t know about come from? I think they were natives that Nephi’s people had moved in with and that Lehi’s profession was being a politician.

    Start working the numbers from there and a lot of it makes a lot more sense.

    The fact that the narrow neck of land took a day and a half to cross — err no.

    The wall, that ran on the line (it doesn’t say that the wall connected) between the east and west seas, was a day and a half’s travel for a Nephite (implying it would have taken longer for others).

    I should note that I was reading the Book of Mormon in law school and started noticing how the rebellions kept cropping up in Alma’s time. This business of people with royal blood who weren’t part of the ruling Alma/Mosiah elite. Mulekite and Kingment (Mulek can be translated as king).

    Lots of sub themes. Approach the Book of Mormon as if you were deconstructing an historical text. The steady theme of imperfections in the writing and editing (don’t you ask yourself, can’t these guys get over spelling errors? That isn’t what they are concerned about). Pahoran’s qualms about using force against the rebels. Lots of sub-themes suddenly make sense if the Nephites are a power elite.

    After all, Alma has a problem. He goes to the king (?!) for theological advice and the king goes to his priests (!?). Think about it. The king has a council of priests he consults with who have nothing to do with the prophet-leader of the Church. Then the king gets back with Alma.

    There is a lot going on there, a lot. Not to mention that the Mulekites only claim to be decended from the Kings of Lehi’s people after they have been educated and told Lehi’s back story. I think it very probable that they weren’t telling the truth there, but that when the Nephites arrive in the middel of a civil war, one faction joins up with them to establish hegemony, which seems to last until that king’s line steps aside.

    Does “everyone” join the Church of Christ when Benjamin gives his speach? I’m willing to be that everyone in the Nephite community does, but that the rest of the different language speaking peoples remain seperate.

    Anyway, my two bits.

  87. Jonathan (#22), “However, the LA Times has touched on a point that many LDS remain unaware of, which is the wholesale shift among LDS to the Mesoamerican LGT. “

    I hate to snipe, but in the early 1970s there were criticisms of the LGT that went back into the late 1800s. The LGT has been with us a very, very long time.

    [snarky comment deleted]

  88. BTW, I deleted the snarking myself πŸ˜‰ — I figured that snarky comments were someone else’s stickh.

    vague references to “the land” are also found in Moses and the Book of Abraham. Interestingly enough, Moses saw many lands, and each land was a world, but the history of this world only was he given — makes it very easy to read the account that Moses gives being limited to the land he was in and his people.

  89. Jack,
    To be honest, I don’t think that all that much can be claimed about the consistency of the internal geography. The geographical details of all but the most central lands are left undescribed. Any claims that the internal geography is consistent is just as well established in my opinion as the claim that it is inconsistent with other internal claims. Of course one can, as many have done, construct a self-consistent map with such details very easily, but the very fact that all BoM map are inconsistent with each other goes to show how little we can really claim about the internal consistency of the text in this matter. Internal consistency is something which cannot be assumed in approaching the topic unless one has a preconceived theory which one is striving to establish.


    The LGM was an ad hoc modification motivated primarily by the finding that populations simply don’t grow all that fast. This is in addition to the geographical findings. In fact, I would claim that most (maybe not all) of the “others” verses are themselves interpreted incorrectly due to this ad hoc modification. I hardly see this as supporting LGM.

    See my comments to Jack above with regards to internal consistency.

    The macro/micro corelation serves as a defence of an hemispheric interpretation, not primarily as an attack on LGM. That said, however, the macro/micro corelation as I see it does pose more than a little bit of a problem with regards to the DNA research, for it suggests that Lehi’s blood should be far more prevalent throughout the continent than most all LGM defenses suggest. Again, I’m not seeing much support here for the LGM. As I see it the hemispheric model does not really suggest that the BoM covers all of the hemisphere, but rather that the BoM PEOPLE did.

    Sorenson’s direction problem is a serious one, as it seems you admit. {If only everybody else could as well. ;-)} This is not a total escape however. For one, if Teuhuantepec is not the isthmus, then what is? It seemed to me to be only alternative to Panama which was ever remotely plausible. Furthermore, the book as we have it now was not translated for the ancients which had different directions than we do. We can’t say that “horses” is a modern translation to cover a discrepency and then claim that “east” means something totally foreign to us.

    As to JS and BY, I readily endorse your writing off their inconsistent revelations, but I do hestitate at how carelessly you seem to do so. They not only were not corrected in the HM (hemispheric model), but they actually received revelations which endorsed it. This is no trivial matter. Additionally, what JS thought about the location of Zarahemla is VERY much on point if we are defending a HM reading. I guess most of the confusions are my fault for not adequately clarifying which points are intended to defend a HM reading and which are meant to criticize a LGM reading.

  90. My main point, I should make clear, is that I don’t think the Signature arguments are being given their full day in court. While many of their arguments aren’t very persuasive to say the least, arguments can be made in their favor which aren’t so trivial in my opinion. The “inspired fiction” reading seems VERY plausible when one discusses any correlation between BoM events and what we know about this continent’s history. I guess I’m simply asking for a better reasoned argument. If somebody could respond to not only what some of the Signature guys have been saying while addressing the concerns I have raised, I think one would be in business.

  91. Jeffrey,

    I don’t think inconsistency between BoM maps proves that there is inconsistency in the text. It may only demontrate (and I think you agree) that the text doesn’t offer enough information to pin-point the geography with enough accuracy so as to settle the issue–that’s all. But that which IS represented in the text is (it seems to me) always consistent with itself. The land of Nephi is always up. The land of Zarahemla is always down, etc..

  92. #27 (NM) I don’t claim to be an expert, but I did study with Sorenson at BYU and I reviewed an early draft of his manuscript a year or two before his first book on the subject was published. I’ve also visited many of the sites in Central America. As I’m sure you know, the dates Sorenson referred to for the development of Mayan civilization are being pushed back by new discoveries. My point was that as we continue to discover that the Mayans were more pervasive and more highly developed sooner that we previously realized, the less likely it is for Nephites to have lived among them. I also recognize the argument against Nephite domination, but it’s clear that the heroes in the Book of Mormon dominated at least the civilization they described, in terms of government, judges, military, and religion. I realize some people have postulated that the Book of Mormon claims were themselves exaggerations, but to the extent we adopt that line of reasoning, we undermine the credibility of the Book as a whole.

    #52 (Clark) I wholly agree with your assessment of the importance of historicity. It’s why I think it is such a mistake to continue pursuing a faulty Mesoamerican LGT.

    #91-2 (S) I agree that it’s likely that Nephi’s group included servants; it would be much more surprising if it didn’t. I think this only supports the notion that we should be finding ancient Israelite DNA wherever the Book of Mormon took place.

    As you point out, I did inadvertently omit the term “apologists” after the second “LDS,” but the point is you have to search carefully for earlier LGT statements. Sorenson’s books, and the accompanying Ensign articles, were significant in shifting the focus to LGT, but I’m sure you remember Jack West’s Trial of the Stick of Joseph, Milton R. Hunter, etc., who discussed findings in Peru and Venezuela as well as Central and North America to help substantiate the Book of Mormon. I still encounter members who believe the Book of Mormon is hemispheric, but at least in my personal experience, and from what I see coming in Church and private company materials, the Central American LGT pretty well dominates at this point.

  93. 89 (Blake) I disagree that what JS thought about BoM geography and historicity is irrelevant. There are many questionable statements attributed to him that cause confusion, but he did make some clear pronouncements on his own. I do agree, though, that it is fruitless to try to reconcile the attributions with his actual declarations; better to simply ignore the attributions.

    If I understand your point correctly, you assert that JS didn’t know where the events took place and the references in the D&C revelations to Lamanites, the New Jerusalem, etc., reflected his own (faulty) beliefs. This I suppose is a type of “modern expansion” of a “modern source,” and I see why you think it is necessary, given the inconsistency between those revelations and the Mesoamerican LGT. Still, wouldn’t it be better to accept the revelations and reject the MLGT instead? I understand that you are not tied to Sorenson’s version, and I don’t know that you are tied to any particular version, but are you open to a North American LGT, located about where Joseph Smith said it was, that would be both consistent with the D&C and the historical evidence in that region?

  94. Jeffrey: I don’t think that all that much can be claimed about the consistency of the internal geography. The geographical details of all but the most central lands are left undescribed. Any claims that the internal geography is consistent is just as well established in my opinion as the claim that it is inconsistent with other internal claims.

    I don’t quite follow your reasoning here. The fact that some aspects are vague says nothing about what you designate the “central lands” which are described. Really, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense they way you’ve put it here. Could you flesh it out? What exactly do you see as inconsistent? Even if only as a possibility.

    Jeffrey: The LGM was an ad hoc modification motivated primarily by the finding that populations simply don’t grow all that fast. This is in addition to the geographical findings.

    Just to perhaps clarify things for us who are perhaps having difficulty following your reasoning. Could you say what you think ad hoc means and whether you think that disqualifies an argument? That term is being thrown around a lot and it almost is coming to sound like people are using it to mean “takes into consideration evidence outside of the text and might in any way be positive towards the texts’ historicity.”

    If that is how it is being used (and I’m not saying you are using it that way) then it seems frightfully unhelpful.

    Jeffrey: As I see it the hemispheric model does not really suggest that the BoM covers all of the hemisphere, but rather that the BoM PEOPLE did.

    That’s perhaps a wiser refinement. I think that position (as opposed to what I took you to be saying earlier) is at least defensible from the text. I still think it wrong, mind you. But that’s an other matter.

    Jeffrey: They not only were not corrected in the HM (hemispheric model), but they actually received revelations which endorsed it.

    Could you perhaps tell me which revelations by Brigham Young did this? I’m once again not following you again. The closest I can think of is places like D&C 28 and 30. But I’m not sure one ought take such texts in the manner you are suggesting. I certainly acknowledge that people did – and in part that led to the hemispheric model being as dominant as it was for as long as it was. But I think one could easily read it in other ways. But definitely native Americans were called Lamanites. I’m not sure that has the implications for hemispheric models that you take it to have. (Especially if, as some assert, DNA was swamped)

    Jeffrey: I don’t think the Signature arguments are being given their full day in court. While many of their arguments aren’t very persuasive to say the least, arguments can be made in their favor which aren’t so trivial in my opinion. The “inspired fiction” reading seems VERY plausible when one discusses any correlation between BoM events and what we know about this continent’s history.

    The “inspired fiction” answer certainly will always be an easy answer when there isn’t positive evidence. But it’s less a position than just an abandonment.

    I guess I see the issue primarily as whether, when combined with a testimony that rejects the inspired fiction as a possible answer, one can be rational in ones beliefs. Hopefully that doesn’t entail all arguments as being ad hoc. But I can see why some might see it as so and that the only rational belief is to reject Book of Mormon historicity. (Once again, I’m not saying you are saying this: I’m addressing the larger context.)

    So I don’t think your point here gets at the issue. The issue is, once one throws out the inspired fiction (which has huge problems theologically) what is one left with? Should one believe or disbelieve. The inspired fiction solution is, in my mind, the attempt to find a third way that perhaps is more deserving of the “ad hoc” terminology.

  95. Jonathan N I wholly agree with your assessment of the importance of historicity. It’s why I think it is such a mistake to continue pursuing a faulty Mesoamerican LGT.

    Until a model that fits the data better is presented, I think most will stick with the mesoAmerican setting, despite its flaws. All, rather creative, attempts to place it elsewhere from the Great Lakes and even most creatively in southeast Asia have far more problems.

    Jonathan N My point was that as we continue to discover that the Mayans were more pervasive and more highly developed sooner that we previously realized, the less likely it is for Nephites to have lived among them.

    Why? I don’t see how that follows. It might invalidate some claims of technological progress from the Nephites. But I always thought those were vastly overstated anyway.

  96. Geoffrey: We can’t say that “horses” is a modern translation to cover a discrepency and then claim that “east” means something totally foreign to us.

    I would argue (and have done so at Blake’s post on That Other Blog about his expansion theory) that Sorenson doesn’t argue that horses is a modern translation. It seems very plain to me from the context of the cases he sites around his argument about animal and plant names in the Book that he argues that Nephites themselves used the hebrew/nephitish word for horse (and cow and ….) to describe the unfamiliar things they saw when they landed in the promised land. This means that he’s arguing that Nephites, unfamiliar with a deer, for example, could select a word from their extant vocabulary which best described it (he gives several examples of conquistadores doing the same thing) rather than inventing a new word. So, when Joseph goes to translate, he doesn’t “see a picture of a deer in his mind and say, ‘Horse'” as some people think, but he sees the nephitish/hebrew word for horse on the plates, because that’s the word the Nephite’s used upon finding a slightly unfamiliar animal…

    Jeff, to be perfectly honest, and this is probably due just to the whole nature of blogging and comment response, your whole collection of points here seems to be cobbled together on the fly, in quite the ad hoc matter. Is there any chance you’d be able to succinctly and consistently delineate just what it is that you do believe about the Book and geography? Maybe a post somewhere else would be helpful? Because you have yet to show any statements from the book itself supporting a hemispheric reading (like verse and chapter statements would be helpful here) I’m having a hard time seeing where you’re finding any inconsistencies at all…

  97. Jeffrey, I have to agree with A. Nonny. I’m not getting any sense of a coherent argument on your part. I know blogging is not the perfect forum, but just some feedback from a reader based on your input so far. I would second the notion that actual quotations from the BoM — and points of disagreement with Sorenson and Allen — would help make your case more convincing.

  98. ANM: How could the English word “horse” not be a modern translation? Of course it is — it is English. If you claim that there was some underlying Hebrew word, why didn’t they use the Hebrew word for Tapir or cow or deer — for certainly there are such words in Hebrew.

  99. I’m getting into this discussion late, but here are a few of my thoughts:

    1. Where I live in northern Delaware, Baltimore and Washington are basically to the southwest, but are generally considered “south”, since they’re south on Interstate 95. Conversely, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston are considered “north” but are closest to northeast, for the same reason. (Salisbury, Maryland, is also considered south from here, and is almost due south – as well as south on US 13.)

    With that in mind, I have no problem with Sorenson’s model. The Nephites could have meant “north” and “south” as being parallel to the coast, the way Northeasterners consider “north” and “south” as being parallel to I-95 or US 1. In fact, for me it’s a better fit, as Panama is not just a narrow neck of land, it’s also windy (generally running east-west), and relatively long.

    2. It has been postulated (granted, this works better in Europe and among those of European descent) that if someone who lived a thousand years ago has descendants today, you’re one of them. (This was in the Atlantic Monthly a few years ago.) It would not be that difficult, even with an LGM, for most, if not all of the inhabitants of the Americas in 1492 to be descendants of the Lehites and/or the Zoramites. Of course any DNA evidence would have diluted itself out by then.

    3. Signature’s founder, George D. Smith, has had long correspondence (dating back to at least the late 1970s) with my father over Book of Mormon authorship, etc. To keep it simple, Smith doesn’t believe the Book of Mormon was a translation of ancient plates. (What he does believe I don’t know.)

  100. Blake: ANM: How could the English word “horse” not be a modern translation? Of course it is — it is English. If you claim that there was some underlying Hebrew word, why didn’t they use the Hebrew word for Tapir or cow or deer — for certainly there are such words in Hebrew.

    So… you caught me. I don’t speak Hebrew, and I chose the horse thing because Jeff used it, and it’s a salient example. But, the context of Sorenson’s book remains the same: There are clear lexical gaps between people coming from the old world to the new, and they would have to fill those lexical gaps. Sorenson, in his section on this, shows examples of the conquistadores calling bison ‘vaca’ and gives other examples. I’m not saying that a horse is a deer or a cow or a tapir. I’m saying that Nephites could have seen an animal (not being an anthropologist, I’m not making a claim as to what it was, just that it’s possible) and used their word for horse for the animal. The point is that Sorenson’s limited geography doesn’t absolutely have to rely on the expansion theory to be viable (and also that I don’t believe it does… I’ve not spoken to him personally about the subject, but the context seems incredibly clear that he’s indicating that the new colonizers have a tendency to fill in lexical gaps for new species with existing words in their vocabulary. Which, at least in the case of the species names, seems to make the expansion theory a moot point. One merely has to show that all of the plant and animal names existed in Hebrew for them to be tenable.

  101. And, I should have said not that “Horse” wasn’t a modern translation, but have been more precise in my language: I don’t believe that Sorenson argues that “Horse” is a modern expansion.

  102. Jonathan: In answer to your question in #98, sure I’m open to whatever LGT theory works best given any geography — so if it is North America that’s good. But then I have to ask why there are no seasons mentioned in the BofM, no armies trudging thru snow like Joseph Smith did every winter of his life? Joseph could have had a great story of of Mormon crossing the Delaware in the middle of the winter to compare to him to George Washington. But he doesn’t and the lack of seasons suggests to me that it took place in a perpetually wam climate where they have violent storms sometimes.

  103. There’s also that rather interesting analysis comparing periods of war to seasons, Blake. I forget the name of the article but it correlates with the seasons in mesoAmerica.

    I’d love a great lakes geography that works. It’d solve lots of problems. But it seems to cause far more problems than it solves.

  104. In his book “By the Hand of Mormon” Terryl Givens writes that Joseph Smith adopted central America as the most likely place for the Book of Mormon to have taken place after discoveries of cities there in the late 30s. I don’t have the page number because my friend has my copy of the book, but to say that LGT is ad hoc and post-19th or even late 20th century is simply false given that Joseph smith himself considered CA as a place for the BoM peoples.

  105. Just a few references to use in the fight against the Prince of Lies


    A report in the L A Times by William Lobdell (February 16, 2006) asserted that some Mormons were troubled by a “lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans”. In fact about one third of Native American males selected for DNA research belong to Y chromosome lineage groups commonly found in modern Jews. This includes the Q-P36 lineage group that is ancestral to the primary Native American lineage group Q3. Q-P36 is found in 5% of Ashkenazi Jews [1], 5% of Iraqi Jews [2] and a significant number of Iranian Jews [3]. Other west Eurasian lineages found in Native American test subjects include R, E3b, J, F, G, and I [4]. All of these are also found in modern Jews. The trouble isn’t a “lack of discernible Hebrew blood in Native Americans”, but a lack of discernible facts in Lobdell’s report.

    [1] Behar et al, 2004, Contrasting patterns of Y chromosome variation in Ashkenazi Jewish and host non-Jewish European populations.

    [2] Shen et al, 2004, Reconstruction of Patrilineages and Matrilineages of Samaritans and Other Israeli Populations From Y-Chromosome and Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Variation.

    [3] Hammer et al, 1999, Jewish and Middle Eastern non-Jewish populations share a common pool of Y-chromosome biallelic haplotypes.

    [4] Zegura et al, 2004, High-Resolution SNPs and Microsatellite Haplotypes Point to a Single, Recent Entry of Native American Y Chromosomes into the Americas


    According to research by Hammer et al in 2005 [1] self identified Native Americans in the US break down by paternal lineage as follows. About 31% are Q-P36; which is also found in Jews and other groups. About 27% are Q-M3, which is a branch of Q-P36 that is virtually unique to Native Americans. About 24% are in the R lineage group, which predominates in Europe. Only about 9% have East Asian or Siberian lineages: C-P39 and N-Tat. About 1% have African lineage, E3a. The remaining 8% belong to European-Middle Eastern lineages: I, J, E3b, G & F. Some of this is the result of post-Columbian admixture. However, it is impossible to know from the DNA alone, when a strain of any given lineage entered the Native American gene pool. The fact that both Jews and Native Americans share the Q-P36 lineage may not prove the Book of Mormon to be true, but it shatters the claim that DNA evidence refutes it.

    [1] Hammer et al, 2005, Population structure of Y chromosome SNP haplogroups in the United States and forensic implications for constructing Y chromosome STR databases.


  106. Doug, do you have any web links to the above information so I and others can examine it? Thanks.

  107. Hi Geoff B,

    Here are the links you requested. You can also just take the names of the studies in my footnotes, copy them into a Google search field and press the search button.

    Behar 2004

    Shen 2004

    Zegura 2004

    Hammer 1999

    Hammer 2005

Comments are closed.