Book of Mormon Evidence vs Book of Mormon Central

A tale of two contentious conferences!

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Search Isaiah - The Book of Mormon—a Tale of Two Conferences

I recently spent three days at two Book of Mormon conferences on the same weekend. The 21st International Book of Mormon Evidence Conference believes the Book of Mormon took place in North America (the Heartland theory), while the Book of Mormon Central 2018 Conference believes the Book of Mormon all took place in Central America (the MesoAmerican theory). With over a hundred other theories, these two are by far the predominant.

The 21st International Book of Mormon Evidence Conference boasted 90 speakers with 160 presentations over three days
The 21st International Book of Mormon Evidence Conference boasted 90 speakers with 160 presentations over three days

If you are retired, like me, and have nothing better to do, what could beat sitting on your fanny for 36 hours listening to credentialed and not-so-credentialed “experts” share their latest Book of Mormon evidence and take pot-shots at each other? Admittedly, most of the “experts” at the first conference didn’t have nearly as many letters after their name, and other than a few notable presentations that riled me (which I will address in my second article in this series), I enjoyed most of them.

Perhaps that paints a much worse picture than intended, but at the Book of Mormon Evidence Conference in the Davis Convention Center in Layton, I couldn’t help feeling like I was in a shooting match against those of other close-minded but opposite opinions who happened to be of the same faith (except one Baptist minister whom I liked a lot and will mention later). There, presenters fired shots across the BYU scholarly bow, included things like one Cumorah, 7 letters, DNA and the age of the earth, wolves and sheep, and Book of Mormon “fantasy maps” used in classes at the school with the “Y” on the mountain.

If you have followed these two camps over the last fifteen years, you can count over 700 pages of web content where the two sides call each other out by name at varying levels of civility from kindness to warnings of apostasy.  The MesoAmerican camp got off to the strongest start with articles against the Heartland as early as 2003, and even the Deseret News took a stab occasionally at trying to moderate the Book of Mormon evidence and geography controversy. But I would say that Jonathan Neville, a lawyer from the Heartland camp (one of the few with letters after his name) is the one whose gun barrel stays the hottest lately (and though I don’t fully agree with him he really keeps me entertained) with a blog he calls Book of Mormon Wars (are over).

What I really wanted to see was Book of Mormon Central and the Firm Foundation square off in civil debates behind closed doors like they used to do on campus at BYU when I was growing up. Instead, we debate without constraint hidden in our office, from web pages posted all over the Internet where friends, enemies, and youth choose their favorite opinion to comment, like, and share, and get no closer to the truth, or more importantly, to Zion—not!

Sad to say, us old timers who are battle-hardened, seem to do fine; but our children and grandchildren aren’t holding up so well. I’ve lost a few very close to me, how about you?

I remember President Benson warning us again that we remain under condemnation until we repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon. And just recently while reading D&C 84:56–58,  I noticed for the first time that the scourge and judgment to be poured out would be upon the “children of Zion, even all.”

The “children of Zion,” our young people… I think it’s happening.

Luckily, about all I saw was white hair in the audience and motorhomes in the parking lots at either conference, with hardly any young people. Less collateral damage.

I checked at the registration desk and there were 4,000 attendees at the Book of Mormon conference and over 500 at Book of Mormon Central. The Meso team has grown a lot since two years ago when they reported to my boss only 85 people. And I was really impressed with the 53,000 likes on their Facebook page though, that’s pretty strong. The Heartland team reports about 70,000 in their email database, but they better look in their rear view mirror. I know likes aren’t the same as email addresses, but the Book of Mormon Central team has about a dozen millennials on staff who know how to get social media working for them. Their movies are awesome, I just wish they would come up with something a bit more interesting and relevant to the millennials than the KnowWhys… I’m just saying, they are a bit on the periphery, let’s tackle the real issues, shall we?

For example, several “Heartland” Book of Mormon presenters felt sure they could prove that Zarahemla was across the river from Nauvoo and that there is only one Cumorah, and it is in New York. (At least they actually have a place pinned down, unlike the Mesoamerican group who are still looking for an actual site.) And there were several complaints that even though Cumorah is where the Church actually celebrates the pageant, the pageant staff and leadership won’t admit anything at all about it actually being the real place. I hear there is a new site to visit coming online near Cumorah, something about Oliver Cowdery?

One very refreshing presenter I need to call out was Wayne May who did not contend at all, but ended his very interesting presentation with the statement “we report, you decide.” That’s what I’m talking about. This guy has read the Journalism Code about not skewing what you report. It’s hard to find. The BYU guys pound on him particularly hard, but he is one of my favorites!

“Since geographical information does not provide a basis for belief and does not compel one to believe, it is proper to point out that studying Book of Mormon geography is a secular endeavor, not a religious endeavor. Just like biblical archaeology is non-theological, studying any supposed geography of the Book of Mormon, while interesting, should not be confused with religious endeavors related to the book.” —FairMormon

In interesting contrast on Saturday at the Book of Mormon Central 2018 Conference in the convention center in Provo, the “MesoAmerican” camp tried to convince the audience that the true location of Zarahemla is in the Yucatan or Guatemala. (If you don’t know this you’ve never been on a cruise to Mexico or you’ve been under a lava rock for 70 years.)

The coolest presentation at either conference was the powerful one on stylometry research done on the many characters in the Book of Mormon, it was a high point, to say the least. And constructive. Now that’s something we can use from the scholars! It got my colleague Darryl Alder thinking about applying stylometry to solving the biggest problem the global scholars have with Isaiah. I hope our BYU scholar team has the backbone to run the peer-review gauntlet to take that one on! (I would rather watch that contest than reruns of Jimmer sinking three-pointers in the Utah game.)

At the Book of Mormon Central conference, Rob Jex gave us a cool sneak preview from the Priesthood and Family Department on the huge project at the Church to film the Book of Mormon. Rob was smart, he completely stayed out of the fray. And I’m sure glad that John Bytheway was there to add fun and the spirit that was much needed. Tyler Griffin ended the day with what his heartland friends call the “fantasy map,” but I sure loved his humble and spirit-filled approach. I’m also glad he takes a heavy teaching load off the research scholars at BYU and doesn’t have to waste his knowledge and career writing peer-reviewed articles that the most of the world never read like 80% of his colleagues.

I went to both conferences looking for ideas to talk about but came away confused at this surprising hubris from both sides! All I can say is that I am glad I read and believe the Book of Mormon for myself. It’s interesting that one of the most consistent themes in the Book of Mormon is contention among God’s people, it looks like that same theme is alive and well today.

I miss the day when President Monson pulled people from both sides of an argument into a room, told them they were hurting and embarrassing the church, looked into their eyes for a few minutes, and told them not to leave the room until they work it out! They did! Easy! Done! My personal theory is that the Lord is restraining His servants to see what we as a people will do. I’m a bit embarrassed at our performance, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, it’s just a theory, and I’m just an old guy who follows current events, who says too much hiding behind a pen name.

Over two thousand years ago, in this book we are talking about, there were nearly a dozen people with followers who chose to put -ites after their names. Today we seem to be forming up in Meldrumites, Nevillites, Mayites, Heartlandites, Welchites, Sorensonites, Wrightites, Hullites, Mesoites, Rosenvallites, Bajaites, Sessionites, UMites, Darwinites, Huttonites, Parryites, Ludlowites, Gileadites, Madsenites, Nibleyites, McConkieites, and sure enough, the list of -ites are getting bigger.

Christ warned us that all things that have been, shall be again. It happened to the Adamites, the Noahites, the Jaredites, the Nephites. Is it happening to us? Is that what the Book of Mormon is warning us about? Not the geography? Why do we separate ourselves and contend against our own people?

Christ gave us one name to unite us… His.

What are we thinking? For nearly two hundred years, both the world and the saints have put the Book of Mormon on trial. But if you look at it from God’s perspective, the Book of Mormon isn’t on trial… we are.

Maybe this actually is the trial… contention… murmuring… disputations… mercy… loving kindness… meekness… humility. It might be, but I’m not sure it’s DNA or geography.

Isn’t there a scripture where Christ himself reminds us “If ye are not one ye are not mine?”

The goal isn’t to find out where Nephi landed his boat. If Christ wanted us to know, He could clearly have told us. Several times Nephite prophets saw things that they wanted to warn us about, but Christ either gave them Isaiah or just forbad them saying, “I will try the faith of my people.” Where is the reference to that scripture? (I’m not telling you, I’m not a scholar anymore, I don’t get paid enough, I do backlinks, I don’t do footnotes, go search it for yourself, Google it!)

But in spite of concerning trends, several times at both conferences I came to feel God’s spirit through a deeper understanding of the Book of Mormon, and I got some of what I sought. I guess you get what you look for, but I also got a good serving of disputation and contention too, which is sad. Aren’t we bigger than that? In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?” In verse 10, he said,

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Interestingly among the presenters, all three days, Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, a Baptist minister, understood civility and unity the most. And believe it or not, he says he takes many of his opinions from the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith himself! He told attendees he looked for the common good in all religions and said that Joseph Smith did the same when he said:

“If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way.”

Truth will cut its own way. I like that.

Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, a Baptist Minister from Kansas City, Missouri, may have a few things to teach, and quote, from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon!
Dr. Lynn Ridenhour, a Baptist Minister from Kansas City, Missouri, may have a few things to teach, and quote, from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon!

Dr. Ridenhour then asked for an “Amen.” We gave it to him and a few hallelujahs too as he explained what he had learned from the man Joseph and the Book of Mormon. He said that Joseph was tolerant of all, that he loved his enemies (even when tarred and feathered), that he loved to play with children and was a real person who was born again. Of the book, he said that he read it cover to cover to find the “weird,” but instead found a witness for Christ, “believing from the very first page to the last.” He pointed out that Christ is the central figure of the Book and that while the New Testament mentions the Lord in every 1.7 verses, in the Book of Mormon that rate is 2.3, a full 25% more frequently than in the New Testament. He said that of all the 6,000 books he owns, “the Book of Mormon is the most nonsectarian, a book for every Catholic, for every Lutheran, for every Baptist, and even for every Jew!”

Very interesting that the best example of civility and unity I could find is a Baptist Minister who could teach us Mormons a few things from our founding prophet and our own book.

At both conferences, of course, I was looking for compelling content about Isaiah. I was rewarded with Robert Kay’s explanation of understanding Jewish writing and composition; with Avraham Gileadi’s end-time prophecies in Isaiah; and John Bytheway, the author of “Isaiah for Airheads”, who gave a fun and interesting treatment of soils in the New Testament and Isaiah.

By-the-way, is Isaiah for Airheads another way of saying Isaiah for Dummies? John said we could find his book at the local thrift store or Deseret Industries, I wish it were. It’s actually still one of the hottest sellers at Deseret Book, I’ve looked.

We made connections with all three speakers and will be inviting them to participate in our SearchIsaiah project. We are still trying to get Matt Roper and Paul Fields to get back with us about their amazing research on Stylometry, and we will update you when we do!

NOTE: I’m updating this article. In fact, I riled so many people, I’m starting a series pulling on this thread with a pair of pliers. Some like my thoughts, many don’t; I’m ok with that. My boss is getting asked who Pop Isaiah is, some think I should be fired. (So far he says he likes how I write, and I have a two-year contract.) I’m a bit crotchety, I write in the opinion column, and I hide behind a pen name like lots of you commenters do. I’m inviting you to share your best thinking, and be blunt, I will be. And I’m warning you, I tend to stoke the fire, it keeps me warm. – Pop

PS: I get asked a lot so here is a little more about the man they call Pop Isaiah

About Pop Isaiah

They call me Pop, Pop Isaiah actually. I write this highly opinionated column on all things Isaiah. I used to be a scholar, researcher, and a bit of a writer. I say used to be because I don't have time and patience for that anymore, and I don't get paid enough. So look up your own damn footnotes. I'm also retired, which is the ultimate form of tenure. I admit I am LDS... mostly. I sit in the back of what used to be the High Priests group and try to keep my mouth shut, but it still gets me in trouble a lot, and they don't ask me to teach much anymore. Why? I don't have patience with a gospel for dummies, which is what we tend to water it down to. Still, I know it's true, get's truer every day in fact. So cut me some slack, and I'll do the same. I spent a lot of my formative time on the east coast in my liberal years, but I'm a bit of a political hybrid now. I don't claim either the right or the left, don't see much use. I'm a self-proclaimed millennial revolutionary. I'm tired of wading through this political correctness charade, so I choose not to. I figure if Clayton Christensen calls it a doctrine of Satan, that's good enough for me. This is my perfect job, so please don't screw it up. My boss has already had a few requests to fire me and I'm just getting started. If you notice fulfillment of prophecies related to Isaiah, the latest scuttlebutt, spelling problems, breaking news I don't know about, or some really stupid arguments I make, I invite you to send them to me privately at PopIsaiah@aol.com. My boss is pretty adamant about me staying civil, so please do the same. And sorry, sometimes you can't fix stupid! I may be a little slow responding, but I'll get back to you eventually. If you send me some really great content privately I'll probably post it, but I won't use your name unless you want me to. I’m warning you up front, I tend to stoke the fire, it keeps me warm. – Pop

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They call me Pop, Pop Isaiah actually. I write this highly opinionated column on all things Isaiah. I used to be a scholar, researcher, and a bit of a writer. I say used to be because I don't have time and patience for that anymore, and I don't get paid enough. So look up your own damn footnotes. I'm also retired, which is the ultimate form of tenure. I admit I am LDS... mostly. I sit in the back of what used to be the High Priests group and try to keep my mouth shut, but it still gets me in trouble a lot, and they don't ask me to teach much anymore. Why? I don't have patience with a gospel for dummies, which is what we tend to water it down to. Still, I know it's true, get's truer every day in fact. So cut me some slack, and I'll do the same. I spent a lot of my formative time on the east coast in my liberal years, but I'm a bit of a political hybrid now. I don't claim either the right or the left, don't see much use. I'm a self-proclaimed millennial revolutionary. I'm tired of wading through this political correctness charade, so I choose not to. I figure if Clayton Christensen calls it a doctrine of Satan, that's good enough for me. This is my perfect job, so please don't screw it up. My boss has already had a few requests to fire me and I'm just getting started. If you notice fulfillment of prophecies related to Isaiah, the latest scuttlebutt, spelling problems, breaking news I don't know about, or some really stupid arguments I make, I invite you to send them to me privately at PopIsaiah@aol.com. My boss is pretty adamant about me staying civil, so please do the same. And sorry, sometimes you can't fix stupid! I may be a little slow responding, but I'll get back to you eventually. If you send me some really great content privately I'll probably post it, but I won't use your name unless you want me to. I’m warning you up front, I tend to stoke the fire, it keeps me warm. – Pop

19 COMMENTS

  1. Imagine what these two groups could be doing to hasten the Lord’s work with the time they are spending on pushing their ideas at each other.

  2. Just to add a little fuel to the fire – it is my understanding that there is a few other scholars that think that South America is the place where the Book of Mormon cities are located. I must have a dozen books that discuss every logical scenario on this subject.
    However – I am with you. Speculating about where BOM cities were located – can be a interesting and even fun hobby, but no one can say with absolute certainty where the events in the BOM occured. In my opinion, I think every school of thought has merit and when all is revealed every site will probably have been an important place for the BOM people. Not to mention the fact that we have no idea where all the cities that were destroyed when the Savior came were located and who is to say with absolute certainty that there is a few righteous cities that were the BOM version of Enoch.
    None of the above has anything to do with the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and its importance to the restored gospel

  3. No mater what is decided among all the theories of all these people I will always believe the Joseph Smith version. .Yes I do believe there were some happenings in South America but the BOM as you call it was buried in The united states –it just was not called “The United States ” at the time the BOM was hidden

  4. This is a fascinating observation. Like you, I’m a layman, but I’ve also an author who writes time-travel adventures revolving around the Book of Mormon. Recently Jonathan Neville, a Heartland advocate, made me the recipient of a “Silver Medal” for my deception of the Church, particularly LDS youth. I was beaten out by the actual Correlation Department of the Church, who Brother Neville believes has openly deceived the LDS people more than any other entity. Hey, I “beat out” Book of Mormon Central, who only managed to walk away with a Bronze. 🙂

    My goal, honestly, throughout my career, has been to celebrate the Book of Mormon with storytelling. If folks don’t care about your characters and your plots, they don’t care about much else that you have to say. Although it’s true that I favor a Meso model of Book of Mormon geography, I remain open to the research and I’ve eagerly looked to see what might turn up among the Hopewell and the Adema. Several times I’ve changed my mind on major, once-popular, perspectives, such as Sorenson’s location of the Hill Cumorah, which actually served to undercut one of my own novels and make it “out of date”! I just figured it was better to be honest than defend future book sales. (Hey, I hope it’s still a fun read, even if my “Cumorah” ideas are off.)

    Your finest points were that we must somehow assuage the acrimony. We must insist that civility reigns, especially among our peers who possess the same opinions as ourselves. I’ve too-frequently been just as impatient and uncivil as the very worst, and because I write for a living, I have the ability to come off as far more “certain” of my opinions than I actually am. Your article makes me all the more determined to turn over a new leaf.

    If it’s any consolation to those who mourn that the divide is sooo wide that any possibility of reconciliation is impossible, I would re-emphasize your theme that in the midst of contention, the Holy Ghost cannot dwell. Thus, the party who somehow manages to express themselves with the greatest degree of tolerance, empathy, and sincere Christian charity and love, wins.

  5. In the words of Roger Hendrix – former Mission president, CES director and chairmen of the Deseret Trust – If you have to explain it, you have already lost.
    I am getting tired of apolgetics and the house of truth cards of the LDS church. Just stop – let it go, show your true number, financial and activity rate/numbers. The the Mormon church be what it really could be – a good vehicle to spirituality. LDS doesn’t have a monopoly on anything.

  6. Hey Chris Heimerdinger I used to read your books a lot, I loved them when I was younger. And it is true that you did focus on a Mesoamerican model even though I didn’t agree with it all the time. Yet, the stories in the books were entertaining and I loved them. Yet, I always felt that the Book of Mormon happened all over the Americas because the records were written in a summarized way that leaves a lot of history out and geography too because in good portions of the book its focus are on specific regions like Jerusalem, the desert wilderness, Zarahemla, City and Land of Nephi etc. In explaining this obstacle to me is like if we were to take the long history of the United States and make it into a summary focusing on things like New York City, Baltimore, or Florida. This would only give a peek into the general history and geography of the country and not the full account. Likewise, the Book of Mormon only gives us peeks into their history, geography, and culture. The reasoning being is that ultimately knowing its history and geography is not really the highest objective for us, most importantly is learning about our Savior and His eternal message for all of our Father’s children. I mean I see flaws in both the Mesoamerican and Heartland theories. I mean they both hold great evidences and arguing points, but both lack things too.

  7. You need to read my book, “Where O Where in the Book of Mormon”. It clarifies where everything happened in the Book of Mormon based on scripture and uncontestable writings. Neither of the above theories is correct. You can find the book on line.

  8. Dear Pop,

    I sincerely hope you stick around, being who you are, for a very long time. “Amen” to everything you said in the article. May we all seek to be more unified.

    One critique on your writing: the tone and message of your writing would come across even more effectively if you didn’t spend so much time effacing yourself. Your bio does that quite enough. It’s diatracting, unnessary and, in my opinion, distracts from the Spirit.

    Your friend in The Truth,

    C. Strangely

  9. Thanks for the article. I enjoyed its lightheartedness.

    I have read at least a dozen theories about BoM geography. I disagree with most of them in some way or another and agree somewhat with the Meso American theory though it doesn’t matter that much. It all happened in the Americas.

    When I was 17 my mother invited me to hear Hugh Nibley speak at what used to be a tabernacle in my home town. (Ironically it’s now a mortuary which I find hilarious.) I had never heard of Nibley at the time. He was about 67 years old in 1977. He said he had read the BoM over a hundred times and me with my mere few as a 70’s teenager. I liked what he said but don’t remember any of his speech today. I only remember what he said afterward when Mom asked if I wanted to meet him. She was in a wheelchair so Dad took her to the front and I helped. We had to wait for all the well wishers to clear. When Mom introduced me she told this eminent scholar who spoke 16 languages that this is my son who has read the BoM seven times. He took one look at me with my seventies teenage hair and dismissed me offhand with the expression, “You have long hair.”

    I remember I wanted to retort, “You’re just jealous because you haven’t got any.” But I didn’t. My Dad was a WWII vet who had also been a drill instructor so I learned early on not to talk back to my elders even when I did’t agree with what they said.

    I have read every book Nibley wrote about the BoM even his transposed lecture series for advanced classes at BYU. He always said he wouldn’t spend much time on BoM geography and then indicated he thought Yaxchillan in Chiapas was Zarahemla.

    I attended one of these conferences on BoM geography offered by what I call the North American group. Mr Wayne May was not there. I left before it was over because I thought their theories were a bit of a stretch to say the least. They said the Mississippi was the Sidon river. But the Sidon flowed north, not south. I suppose that water flows uphill in the Heartland.

    May’s group teaches Zarahemla was in Iowa across the Mississippi from Nauvoo because of D&C 125:3. Sorry, I don’t see it. Using this verse about the proposed site of a future city that was never built as the basis for an ancient city some now purport to have once been in that vicinity when there is no evidence of ruins there in pre-Columbian times is too much of a stretch. That’s like saying when Joseph Smith was asked where the ten tribes were and he pointed at the north star (to indicate north) means that they somehow developed interplanetary travel and found an alien world orbiting Polaris where they landed in 720 BC. Talk about a twilight zone. Facts are facts and even fiction can only be stretched so far. I tend to object to things I don’t agree with by using humor in preference to insults.

    What troubles me the most about these seminars is how they have become a cottage industry to sell books and tickets. People gather in camps as if the seminars somehow represented or replaced what took place in 3rd Nephi when the Savior visited.

    Funny how when you ask someone who considers himself an expert on the BoM who wrote 3rd Nephi they respond with 3rd Nephi written by his son, 4th Nephi.

    I am not a fan of such fortune seekers publishing books and selling tickets including Bytheway. I told a CES professor once that EFY was how parents who were too busy getting wealthy bought a testimony for their children without spending any time with them. My mother read the BoM stories to us as children. I acquired my life long love for this book by reading it not because we had money to pay to attend a gospel revival camp. These meetings seem to be so popular these days. They are what Neal Diamond, A Jewish singer called Brother Love’s Christian Salvation Show.

    You are right about how we are separated by such thin things. Mormon warned us of this. It also happened in Nephite culture. People do separate themselves by ranks and degrees according to their riches and learning (3 Nephi 6:12) then and now. It is altogether too frequent among ourselves the would-be-saints. I don’t have the time or the money to attend these camp meetings.

    I do love the words of Isaiah because of the quotes written by Nephi and Jacob. The final irony is just what you pointed out here. To be fair, however, Isaiah was the first to say it but it still came from The Lord Himself. “Wherefore The Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…” (Isaiah 29:13).

    So keep writing. The world needs more civility and less acrimony. There are already enough “divisions among the people” (2 Nephi 31:10).

  10. A few thoughts after reading the article. My experience at the Book of Mormon Central conference was not “contention” at all. In fact, I don’t remember any attacks against North American theorist. I just remember people sharing what they’re passionate about. I do remember people like Neville later critiquing BMC for “leading members away from the prophets”. Which is ironic, since one prophet actually spoke at a BMC conference.

    This is one reason I don’t care about the Heartlander conferences, or Meldrums videos. The continuous soft attacks against meso-theorists. Can they present without speaking about Mesoamerica? I guess that’s one good attribute about Wayne May. I don’t know him personally, but I’ve heard good things. And that’s probably because he avoids the attacks…which I encourage him to keep doing, despite my lack of confidence in his material.

    That said, there are Mesoamerican organizations that can be just as crazy as some heartlanders. I tend to avoid them too. Why can’t we all just share our evidences without attacking the other? I’ve had problems with this, but slowly, thanks to the influence of trying to be scholarly, I’ve been trying to work away from such attacks.

    I don’t think it’s at all that correct to put both theories on the same level though. Sure, they are both popular. But one is scholarly, while the other is…well…I dunno…too literalistic without any credentials. I don’t think they can even talk to each other, because their mindsets are so completely different. If they can commit to attacks, fine. But there will always be extremists. Lumping groups together, or polarizing groups doesn’t help.

    In the end, I think the best approach is (1) what is most scholarly and (2) what does the Church seem to support the most? I enjoy BMC because they are an approved resource. Because Elder Holland came to their conference. Despite Neville giving BMC an award for “leading members away from the prophets” I find BMC providing me with tons of knowledge.

    As far as our youth, you’ll find that many millennials are looking for credibility in faith. When millennials see an approach that throws away science, and misrepresents history, then you’ll bet they’ll question and leave. To save our millennials, they need to see the logic. Sure, faith requires a step away from logic by coming to God through prayer…but you’ll see God provide lots of logic too in these latter days. My opinion is if we want to save our youth, and figure out geography, then we need to use the good tools we have now: science, and a Church that is slowly helping it’s members find truth.

    I personally support the Mesoamerican model. Sure, I would never say I know 100%. I think that is dangerous and we should avoid people who say such things, because the Church doesn’t say such things. But if the Prophet Howard W. Hunter was supportive of Mesoamerica, then you can bet two things… (1) It’s okay to support a specific model and (2) Mesoamerica is definitely an option. Here’s one of my favorite quotes by Hunter.

    • Zander than you for your thoughtful remarks. Your insights about millennials may be the best I’ve read.
      Regarding contention at the conference, you are correct that there was no direct contention at the Book of Mormon Central Conference. That contention was actually primed at the other conference. Having attended both I felt a kind of indirect contention only because both parties seemed so sure of themselves on the location of the Book of Mormon. I know that Pop was at both conferences too and that may be why he felt that way.

  11. I agree with much of what you’ve said here. Differences of opinion about the location of Book of Mormon events and civilizations are certainly no excuse for very public disagreements and thinly-veiled (at best) insults. And no one should base their testimony of the Book of Mormon on which state or country houses the “narrow neck of land.”

    I am, however, concerned about a couple of your implications.

    You mention how grateful you were that there weren’t many young people at the conferences to become “collateral damage.” I see a few problems with this:
    1. Assuming youth and young adults will leave the Church because they hear a difference of opinion isn’t giving them a lot of credit for independent thought.
    2. Keeping young people physically away from this kind of contention doesn’t mean they won’t encounter it in myriad other ways.
    3. You say youth could be “damaged” by people arguing about the answers to unanswered questions about the Book of Mormon. Though I’m sure it wasn’t your intention, this language implies that there is something inherently wrong in asking questions that aren’t easily answered in Church canon.

    Which brings me to my other concern. You said, “The goal isn’t to find out where Nephi landed his boat. If Christ wanted us to know, He could clearly have told us.” It is true that if the answer were essential to our eternal salvation, Christ likely would have had His prophets tell us very clearly. But just because something isn’t clearly laid out in scripture, it doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to explore, question, and seek knowledge. Faith is critical. But don’t use “have faith” as an easy way to avoid difficult questions.

    Young people are asking questions and expecting to find real answers. I would like to see more discussion of how we can help people channel questions into constructive study instead of dismissing them with a vague “if we were supposed to know, we would know already.”

    • Maria you wrote: Young people are asking questions and expecting to find real answers. I would like to see more discussion of how we can help people channel questions into constructive study instead of dismissing them with a vague “if we were supposed to know, we would know already.”
      Thanks for the courageous comment. Our older generation often forgets the things that you pointed out. I don’t think our team will find much proof, but we will try to be transparent and put out what we do find.
      This makes me think back to the reluctance to show the seer stones Joseph Smith use, but now it is common knowledge and no big deal

  12. What a very well written post! I personally believe the Hopewell and Adena are the Book of Mormon peoples and have thought that for many years long before I heard of men like May and Meldrum. I do not believe all they have to say on the topic. I have looked at the subject from every angle and my conclusion is simple. Just read the book! If people spent less time reading what others have to say about the Book of Mormon and just read the book over and over again, they would be far better off for it! The bottom line is if the Lord wanted proof there would be mountains of it and the plates would be on display at the church headquarters. The Book of Mormon is all about Moroni 10:4 and always has been.

  13. I am a Heartland follower but I think that those searching out the Mesoamerica theory and any other theories within the Americas are doing a good thing. I believe that the data from all of the Americas is of great use in telling the whole story. Some may say that the knowledge gained from other Book of Mormon land theories is not of any use but I do not believe that is true. God bless all those who sincerely search for the truth.

  14. So… if they received a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by the Spirit then why can’t they receive a witness as to the geography by the same Spirit? Was the initial witness truly by the Spirit? Why can’t they seem to receive any more truth from the Spirit other than “the Book of Mormon is true, the church is true, Joseph Smith was a true prophet, and President Nelson is God’s prophet today”???

    Often a person will psych themselves into receiving an answer rather than actually receiving one. For example, at General Conference there are many that get hyped up over the idea of hearing prophets speak. Once they speak the people coo over every word and express how they just heard the word of God. BUT… what happens if the name and voice recognition is removed? Can they recognize what is being heard as the word of God simply by looking to the Spirit for a witness? D&C 50:19-20 says one should be able to so why isn’t it happening regarding the geography of the Book of Mormon?

    I, for one, have received a witness from the Spirit. The Heartland model is more correct than the others. It did not take place in Mesoamerica.

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