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Is the LGT the only plausible geographical theory for the BOM


dblagent007

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I get the feeling that the LGT is the only plausible theory for the BOM geography. I haven't seen anyone state this outright, but FAIR's takedown of Rod Meldrum's theories strongly implies that the Great Lakes theory is not even plausible. What do you think?

You are right that they tend to think this. All I have to say is "so".

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dblagent007:

I don't know enough of the Great Lakes theory to give a extended answer. But I do believe the Nephites knew the difference between a lake they could see across and a sea they could not. Also the locations and distances in the Great Lakes theory seem to be inconsistent with what the BoM actually says.

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No, it's the only plausible theory. What led to it was the study of distances. Regardless of where the Book of Mormon events took place, people moved around and the prophets recorded distances that have left the limited geography outlook to be the only viable one. If you read the Book of Mormon and mark every passage that talks about distance or location (you can mark them in different colors), you can do just what others have done and keep a hand-drawn map with arrows and distances and a map of Mesoamerica and try to do the same thing.

I don't find it so remarkable that people like Phyllis Olive still cling to their outdated theories of the Book of Mormon lands being the Great Lakes region, but Meldrum is a newcomer and doesn't have that much to lose in tossing in the towel. (See this recent website I just found doing a search.) Olive, by contrast, has spent years studying the issue and writing books on it. She has a substantial interest in these lands being in the Great Lakes region. Here's a brief article entitled, The Hill Cumorah and Its Rightful Place in New York. One of the most absurd statements in the article is, speaking of the little drumlin we're all familiar with in New York: "These small cigar shaped hills would have provided a tremendous advantage for both the Nephites and the Jaredites, for they offered great protection and fortification for their battles."

Anyone knowing anything about military fortifications and actions would find this laughable. The Nephites spent months moving to Cumorah and fortifying it. Tens of thousands of Nephite soldiers camped round about it. If one visits the German forests where Augustus lost three legions when they were ambushed, one can still find Roman buckles and various remnants of weapons and so forth. (And that battle took place before the Nephite battle.) Meanwhile, there's nothing to indicate that the New York site was ever the scene of a wholesale slaughter. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that none of these sites were ever home to such a huge population as described in the Book of Mormon.

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I get the feeling that the LGT is the only plausible theory for the BOM geography. I haven't seen anyone state this outright, but FAIR's takedown of Rod Meldrum's theories strongly implies that the Great Lakes theory is not even plausible. What do you think?

This might be of some help:

Digging into the Book of Mormon:Part 1.

Digging into the Book of Mormon:Part 2.

It was originally published in the Ensign in 1984.

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Do you think the Great Lakes theory is plausible?

I think there is more than the GLT that is plausible. What is the most plausible though? Well it would seem that this in some cases is a matter of opinion.

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I believe that Great Lakes theories and Meldrum's presentations should be treated as two separate, but related issues.

John Clark has generally wiped out the Great Lakes as a credible setting for the BOM, and he specifically treats Olive, Hendengren, and Ashton here and here.

Meldrum is more of the same in some ways, but also brings in new variables to the equation. The FAIR review addresses these new variables quite nicely.

In the absence of an official prophetic declaration, I don't think we can say that the Great Lakes are an implausible setting for BOM events, but given the available data, the Great Lakes are the least plausible location for a LGT setting for the BOM that people take seriously, although, there are a few even less-plausible ideas that I have heard (BOM peoples in Utah, for example).

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I get the feeling that the LGT is the only plausible theory for the BOM geography. I haven't seen anyone state this outright, but FAIR's takedown of Rod Meldrum's theories strongly implies that the Great Lakes theory is not even plausible. What do you think?

I think Meldrum is a bona fide practitioner of classic priestcraft, to tell you the truth. His offering, through his website, of cruises to Mayan sites in Central America seems to pretty clearly reveal where his true priorities lie, and I don't think it's with his dedication to the dissemination of "the truth."

I exchanged a few e-mails with Rodney back when he was upset about FAIR's initial response to his "business." I expressed to him my sentiments concerning Nephite tentacles reaching up into the upper Ohio River valley (the Hopewell culture). I tried to convince him to moderate his stance somewhat, and to see that there was room for compromise between his views and those of the "Sorensonites." But he would hear nothing of it. He strikes me as extraordinarily intractable in his opinions, and just a little ... well ... psychologically unstable. He seems strangely inclined to emotional outbursts.

But, most of all, I think he is a poor student of the Book of Mormon and of the available sources in church history. Consequently, he has reached what, in my judgment, are a number of entirely untenable conclusions that cannot be reconciled with the text of the Book of Mormon.

That, and I think his primary (perhaps even exclusive) motivation is to make a buck. But I already hinted at that, didn't I?

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Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the descriptions of city locations etc. occur prior to the great destruction that occurred at the crucifixion of Christ? With such a tremendous change in landscape doesn't that render the prior descriptions meaningless or suspect?

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I believe that Great Lakes theories and Meldrum's presentations should be treated as two separate, but related issues.

John Clark has generally wiped out the Great Lakes as a credible setting for the BOM, and he specifically treats Olive, Hendengren, and Ashton here and here.

Meldrum is more of the same in some ways, but also brings in new variables to the equation. The FAIR review addresses these new variables quite nicely.

In the absence of an official prophetic declaration, I don't think we can say that the Great Lakes are an implausible setting for BOM events, but given the available data, the Great Lakes are the least plausible location for a LGT setting for the BOM that people take seriously, although, there are a few even less-plausible ideas that I have heard (BOM peoples in Utah, for example).

Excellent reply. I do, however, believe that it is important to distinguish between where the central locus of Nephite activity was from the furthest outward extent of their civilization's reach.

I'm not, for example, inclined to completely dismiss the notion that "Nephites" whose home culture was located in Central America were capable of ranging clear into North America. I mean, people are naturally inquisitive and just can't resist the urge to explore beyond their horizons. I believe that the Nephite homeland was a relatively small area (400 - 700 miles in diameter); that they lived in an ancient Mesoamerica consisting of many other large and powerful polities; that they were almost certainly NEVER the most dominant polity in the region; that their relative status was more or less analogous to that of ancient Israel in the Near East, and yet that they also were able (just as ancient and modern Israel) to successfully defend themselves against multiple and more powerful neighbors, all of whom they characterized as "Lamanites."

I believe that, when and if they emigrated from their home territories to places "northward," that they simply established "outposts" that were not contiguously attached to the land of Zarahemla from whence they had come. But I believe that those "outposts" might very well have extended into areas such as the American southwest (Hovenweep and Mesa Verde) as well as into the upper Ohio river valley (the "Hopewell"). We know from archaeological evidence, for example, that the Hopewell were in communication with the cultures in Central America. Same with the "Pueblo" cultures of the American southwest. But I do not believe that the "Nephites" ruled over the entire area from present-day Guatemala to the Great Lakes, southern Utah, and all points in between. That notion is certainly not supported by the text of the Book of Mormon, as it is likewise not supported by what we know from the archaeological and anthropological evidence.

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Correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't the descriptions of city locations etc. occur prior to the great destruction that occurred at the crucifixion of Christ? With such a tremendous change in landscape doesn't that render the prior descriptions meaningless or suspect?

Most of the record come through the editing of Mormon, who lived after the 3 Nephi destruction, and who had no trouble correlating the before and after locations. Sorenson discussed this in Ancient American Setting. He knew where Zarahemla was, and Bountiful etc.

Also, it would be helpful to consider the detailed BYU Studies article on the 3rd Nephi destruction from the perspective of a geologist. (FARMS has a reprint.) It happens that the one kind of geologic event that accounts best for the details reported in 3 Nephi 8-10 is a large scale volcanic eruption. These can indeed change the face of the land (Mt. St. Helens, for example), but they do not rearrange continental features in a whimsical fashion. The Great Lakes region is notably short on volcanic features, whereas Mesoamerica not only has them in abundance, but includes evidence of the right scale of event around the right time, the dating being imprecise but intriguing.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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No, it's the only plausible theory. What led to it was the study of distances.

It's not the only possible plausible theory. Distances are given in terms of time in the BoM. So what it comes down to is how fast you believe the BoM people could travel. It takes 8 days from the Waters of Mormon to Helam, and 12 days from Helam to Zarahemla. As the Waters of Mormon were presumably within the land of Lehi-Nephi or of Shilom (the two, presumably adjacent, lands the Zeniffites colonized), that means the distance from Lehi-Nephi/Shilom to the land of Zarahemla was roughly 20 days. What does that really tell us?

First of all, you can see that even in my analysis above there are several assumptions. What if the Waters of Mormon were days away from Lehi-Nephi? All those days would have to be added on. What if the direction the Almaites went to get to Helam was the opposite direction they went to get to Zarahemla? The distance then could be just four days (12 minus 8 ) . Maybe even less if they were going faster when fleeing south to Helam than when fleeing north to Zarahemla! When they arrived at Zarahemla, does that mean the land in the immediate vicinity of the city Z., or the "greater metropolitan" land of Zarahemla, encompassing all the land-southward holdings of the Nephites? So what can we really say for sure from the text?

One of the best abstract analyses of BoM geography is this article in the first issue of the FARMS Review of Books on the Book of Mormon. In it, Clark uses the info I present above, along with other info from many BoM verses, and concludes that the city of Nephi was 11 standard travelling days from the city of Zarahemla. To get that, he obviously must use an even greater abundance of assumptions than I. How slow everyone must have been going because of the wilderness is one of the most important ones -- he cuts the distance in half via that.

Anyway, if you figure out a theory for a map with the scale in terms of days of travel, you still must then convert days of travel into miles. Now the BoM talks about horses. I know, they never get explicitly rode, and everyone thinks they're tapirs or llamas or whatever, but what if they actually had regular horses and rode them?

If the Lehites had actual horses, which clearly is a possibility from the text (umm, it says they had horses), that throws everything into an uproar. A man can cover some serious distance on horseback. To use an example I just read, Parley P. Pratt rode from New York to Nauvoo in eight days on horseback. Per Yahoo Answers, you can go 100 miles a day on good flat terrain, or 50 on broken terrain (obviously slower for super-broken). Feed that into 20 days, and you get a Place of Mormon 2000 miles away from the Land of Zarahemla. Let's say Mormon was a couple days from Lehi-Nephi -- there's another 200 miles. Let's say Lehi-Nephi was on the northern edge of the Land of Nephi (probably a sensible assumption, actually).

Now the city of Lehi-Nephi is referred to as the city of Nephi after the Zeniffites move in. Did they rename it? Is this the same city as the Nephi which is the chief city of the Land of Nephi? Why would the Lamanites give their chief city to a small group of colonists? Did it only become chief later on? The chief city being the one that Nephites actually built and which they then stole -- that would be a twist in keeping with the overall picture of the Lamanites as lazy. Or were there two city Nephis? The capital city Nephi being further south more centrally located in the land of Nephi, and the other one being renamed Nephi by Zeniff (with no concern for duplication) in honor of the glorious Nephi(s) of old; his heritage he was seeking to re-establish in that land? Point is: if that was the case, the main city of Nephi could be hundreds of miles further yet!

Also, when they entered into the land of Zarahemla, that was quite probably just entering into "greater" Zarahemla, maybe way down at the headwaters around Manti. How much further to get to the actual city of Zarahemla (i.e., how far from Manti, or anywhere else along the wilderness strip, to city Zarahemla)? Who knows?! You can read the war in Al. 43 and speculate on the distances involved, but that's all it is: speculation. I speculate 2 to 4 days south of Zarahemla -- so the distance could be 200 to 400 miles.

So we're up around 3000 miles at this point as a maximum distance from city Nephi to city Zarahemla, and there's still tons of stuff further north! Perhaps the western hemisphere is not too large to fit the text, but too small! How far from Z to the Narrow Neck of land? How far from there to the city Desolation? From there to Teancum? To Jordan? The many unnamed cities the Nephites retreated through on the way to Cumorah: how many were there, and how far apart? These are all unanswered questions, as far as I can see.

So while no other theory I'm aware of has been as fully fleshed out in a scholarly way as Meso-America, that does not mean that other also-plausible and also-consistent-with-the-text theories could not be presented at some point having geographies with larger distances. The text does not require small distances.

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In the absence of an official prophetic declaration, I don't think we can say that the Great Lakes are an implausible setting for BOM events, but given the available data, the Great Lakes are the least plausible location for a LGT setting for the BOM that people take seriously, although, there are a few even less-plausible ideas that I have heard (BOM peoples in Utah, for example).

I think it's pretty implausible in that no one has yet to make it fit with the right rivers in the right places flowing in the right direction. Unless one can have a credible candidate for, say, a Cumorah or a River Sideon (as stated), it's going to take more than just finding a narrow neck of land.

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The text does not require small distances.

With all due respect, I think the argument you present goes far beyond implausible and into the realm of extreme.

Of course, your entire argument depends on the premise that the Nephite population, every single man, woman, and child, travels mounted on horseback, and they are spurring those horses forward with no regard for anything except as rapid a transit as possible, as was Parley P. Pratt in the journey you describe from New York to Nauvoo. As a long-time horse owner/trainer, I'll bet Parley's horse was probably permanently disabled after such a demanding journey.

Nevertheless, you are correct in saying that a single man, on horseback, assuming it's a good, strong, fleet horse, could conceivably travel 50 miles a day over average terrain; possibly (but not without serious wear on horse flesh) 100 miles in a day. Could a man on horseback travel, on the same horse, 100 miles a day for a week straight? Absolutely and positively NO. If, like the Pony Express, he was able to change horses every 20 miles or so, he could obviously travel faster. But that's not a plausible scenario for the travel episodes in the Book of Mormon, now is it?

Furthermore, if even ONE person in a party is not able to ride at a full gallop one of these super-horses, then it means everyone else must slow down to the pace of the slowest traveler.

This is the reality of people traveling: they don't go at the speed of the fastest traveler, but rather at the speed of the slowest.

In my opinion, a better analogy for you would be the travel of Mormon pioneers from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake valley between 1847 - 1869. They probably averaged around 20 miles a day once they got their trail legs under them. Handcarts groups could, on occasion, make as much as 30 miles in a day. But it's just not possible to go any faster without modern means of transport.

I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the Book of Mormon most certainly DOES require small distances in order to make sense of its text. That's just the way it is.

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In my opinion, a better analogy for you would be the travel of Mormon pioneers from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake valley between 1847 - 1869. They probably averaged around 20 miles a day once they got their trail legs under them. Handcarts groups could, on occasion, make as much as 30 miles in a day. But it's just not possible to go any faster without modern means of transport.

There is also the issue of whether they were traveling on trails/roads or were breaking new ground and the type of terrain involved.

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With all due respect, I think the argument you present goes far beyond implausible and into the realm of extreme.

Yes, obviously.
Of course, your entire argument depends on the premise that the Nephite population, every single man, woman, and child, travels mounted on horseback
Well, not my entire argument, though most of my post focused on that. Another very important consideration, more important in fact, is that many of the distances even in terms of time are not known. They are just not specified. In any way whatsoever. Putting a number on them is complete 100% speculation.

Even in the example of the Nephi-Zarahemla tranverse, there are sufficient gaps and ambiguities (some of which I mentioned) that one could slide in a distance of say 50 travelling days without contradicting the text nor making any stories in the book improbable. And that's one of the most clear, well-established transverse disances in the book. What's the distance from Moroni to Bountiful? Review(I'm sure you've read it) the Clark article I linked in regard to Moroni-Bountiful: it's 50% speculation! How do we know Gid was 1.5 days from Mulek? We really don't know.

So my argument is kind of two-fold at this point:

1. The distance travelled in a day could be significantly greater than some scholars are assuming, and

2. There are many gaps and uncertainties in the text regarding distances, and depending on one's assumptions and prejudices they could be taken as very small or very large or anything in between.

and they are spurring those horses forward with no regard for anything except as rapid a transit as possible, as was Parley P. Pratt in the journey you describe from New York to Nauvoo. As a long-time horse owner/trainer, I'll bet Parley's horse was probably permanently disabled after such a demanding journey.
I guess he was in a hurry to get home!
In my opinion, a better analogy for you would be the travel of Mormon pioneers from Winter Quarters to the Salt Lake valley between 1847 - 1869. They probably averaged around 20 miles a day once they got their trail legs under them. Handcarts groups could, on occasion, make as much as 30 miles in a day. But it's just not possible to go any faster without modern means of transport.
The people of Alma were fleeing for their lives from a deadly enemy in pursuit. They didn't have a journey of months and months to pace for. So they could have been going much faster, literally running, at least for the first couple days.
I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the Book of Mormon most certainly DOES require small distances in order to make sense of its text. That's just the way it is.
Could you tell me how positing, say, a Teancum 300 miles north of Desolation tosses text-sense-making out the window? Everything still works perfectly fine and is perfectly consistent. But that's an easy example, because it doesn't figure into any story but the war at the very end. How would a Chief City Nephi 200 miles south of Lehi-Nephi/Shilom (per my "two Nephis" scenario) and 600 miles from Zarahemla cause problems or inconsistencies in any of the narrative?
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There is also the issue of whether they were traveling on trails/roads or were breaking new ground and the type of terrain involved.

Good point. There are areas in Central America that would be even more challenging, in terms of blazing a trail, than the worst that the Rocky Mountains have to offer.

I also think that the most significant factor is the demographic constitution of the traveling party. One of the reasons, for example, that the Martin Handcart Company was so limited in its ability to make good time is that it contained such a high number of elderly Saints, some into their 80s. Again, any party can only travel at the speed of its slowest member. If you are committed to not leaving anyone behind, then you must recognize the reality of this principle. Therefore, the presence or absence of horses really makes little difference to the overall speed at which a party can travel, unless everyone is mounted on equally fast horses. Even one ox-drawn wagon would slow a party such that having horses becomes irrelevant to the distance it can travel each day.

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The Nephites spent months moving to Cumorah and fortifying it. Tens of thousands of Nephite soldiers camped round about it. If one visits the German forests where Augustus lost three legions when they were ambushed, one can still find Roman buckles and various remnants of weapons and so forth. (And that battle took place before the Nephite battle.)

So how many swords have been found at Cerro Vigia?

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It's not the only possible plausible theory. Distances are given in terms of time in the BoM. So what it comes down to is how fast you believe the BoM people could travel. It takes 8 days from the Waters of Mormon to Helam, and 12 days from Helam to Zarahemla. As the Waters of Mormon were presumably within the land of Lehi-Nephi or of Shilom (the two, presumably adjacent, lands the Zeniffites colonized), that means the distance from Lehi-Nephi/Shilom to the land of Zarahemla was roughly 20 days. What does that really tell us?

If it were plausible, no one has yet made a case for it that will hold up under scrutiny. Timeframes for travel, if anything, should be shortened rather than lengthened, as the military usually employs ingenious means of travel and passing intelligence. The Greeks and Romans both employed runners, signal fires and other means to communicate, and as people become familiar with their environments, they create paths, roads and shortcuts. In the case of the Book of Mormon, we have to factor in the heat and humidity and modes of travel. Because horses aren't mentioned very often, one can surmise either that there weren't many of them or that they were some animal the Nephites simply called a "horse." There seems to be evidence that wagons were pulled by animals, but I've yet to see any pictures of a person actually mounted on any sort of an animal.

There's no way anything other than a limited geography model would work; it's just how big of a limited model it is. That's the question. What Joseph Smith would have had to do, had he just invented the Book of Mormon, is have access to all sorts of information he simply didn't have. I agree with Clark's stated methodology and think that great things await geography researchers. Only time will tell.

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So how many swords have been found at Cerro Vigia?

I don't know that we should be looking for swords. We should be looking for any implements of war. We also should consider Cerro de Bernal as a possible candidate. It has a forlorn look about it and is surrounded by numerous rivers, streams and massive fields that could be used for battle. When I think that the Nephites gathered to Cumorah for a very long time and encamped hundreds of thousands of people round about, this just looks more like what I see in my head. Wherever it is, though, I think we should look for scenes of a battle. Historically, it wasn't all that long ago. It happened just as the Roman Empire was fading into nothing.

Now that would be a battle. The Romans against the Lamanites. I'd pay good money to see that!

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I haven't done attachments here before so I hope this works. I checked out a book on the ancient Maya distance travel times, and one estimate was that on foot (they didn't have horses) they could cover about 30 kilometres per day (18.6 miles), and would take approximately two weeks to go from Guatamala to Tikal (see map). I've also included volcanoes in the map. (If you can't see the map let me know.)

Edit: The slow travel time would be accounted for because of rough terrain.

post-15279-125149699921_thumb.jpg

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