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When do we consider the evidence for the Book of Mormon?


Nathair/|\

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I have seen several threads on the merits of various alternative theories for Book of Mormon origins (esp. the Spaulding theory). In all this, the wealth of evidence supporting the claims the BoM makes for itself has been barely mentioned. So, my question is, at what point do we consider it? Is it meaningless as long as someone can argue for any alternative hypothesis?

(for Kenngo1969) Yours under the Oaks faction,

Nathair /|\

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I have seen several threads on the merits of various alternative theories for Book of Mormon origins (esp. the Spaulding theory). In all this, the wealth of evidence supporting the claims the BoM makes for itself has been barely mentioned. So, my question is, at what point do we consider it? Is it meaningless as long as someone can argue for any alternative hypothesis?

(for Kenngo1969) Yours under the Oaks faction,

Nathair /|\

I've noticed that as well. Kuhn remains helpful. Why don't the Spalding theorists bring in what I think of as the good stuff?

When it repudiates a paradigm, a scientific community simultaneously renounces, as a fit subject for professional scrutiny, most of the books and articles in which that paradigm had been embodied.
(Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 167.)

The problem with that designation of FARMS and company as not a fit subject for professional scrutiny, as far as methods, persuasion, evidence and logic goes, is that:

An accepted comprehensive theory is overthrown not primarily by discordant data but by an alternative theory; we should not visualize a two way confrontation of theory and experiment, but a complex confrontation of rival theories and a body of data of varying degrees of susceptibility to reinterpretation.

(Ian Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms: A Comparative Study of Science and Religion, 112.)

Kuhn says that what matters is which paradigm is better, and which problems are more significant to have solved. A judgment of "better" requires comparison, and after thirty years of exploring the literature, I know enough to recognize when the scales have been rigged.

Whether Uncle Dale or 4Truth or Criddle brings up certain things that I find persuasive or not, I can and do keep them in mind. And I've made a study of what matters I should pay close attention to when I evaluate rival paradigms. How does the Spalding theory account for the material in John Welch's new book of Law and the Book of Mormon, or the Festival Patterns in Mosiah, or the geographic and cultural details in Arabia, or First Temple Theology in Jerusalem 600 BCE, or Survivor Witness patterns, or the details of a major volcanic event in 3 Nephi woven together with Year Rite patterns, etc. Truth be told, the Spalding map prefers to keep its adherents from ever setting toe in that territory. That comparison, necessary I think, to realistically define the problem that the Book of Mormon represents, does not flatter the theory. It's enough that they got a study in a peer reviewed journal, which means that the thinking has been done. So Ben shouldn't be rocking the boat with critical insights, and relevant methodologies for evaluating parallels. At least not if he calls their paradigm into question.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I have seen several threads on the merits of various alternative theories for Book of Mormon origins (esp. the Spaulding theory). In all this, the wealth of evidence supporting the claims the BoM makes for itself has been barely mentioned. So, my question is, at what point do we consider it? Is it meaningless as long as someone can argue for any alternative hypothesis?

(for Kenngo1969) Yours under the Oaks faction,

Nathair /|\

The best evidence for the Book of Mormon is the text itself. It is unlikely that Joseph Smith was aware of the 3 dimensional geography of Mesoamerica. There was no Google Earth and most maps were 2 dimentional and gave little or no information on altitude other than citing some areas as highlands and others as lowlands. The ability, using Google Earth and other three dimentional mapping programs, to match the three dimensional geography of Mesoamerica to the textual descriptions of BofM topography is one of the better evidences of the BofM. Not proof but evidence. The textual description of the River Sidon fits the topography of the Grijalva river in Chiapas in both 2 and 3 dimensions. The following figure shows altitude as a function of length of the two rivers proposed to be the Sidon. This combined with 2 dimentional maps leaves the Grijalva river as the only river in the Americas that fits the more than thirty geographic descriptions of the Sidon.

riveralt.jpg

The ability to fit the text to a real world geographic feature and location is just one of the many features of the text that support the BofM as a real record of an ancient culture that once lived on the American continents.

Larry P

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The best evidence for the Book of Mormon is the text itself. It is unlikely that Joseph Smith was aware of the 3 dimensional geography of Mesoamerica. There was no Google Earth and most maps were 2 dimentional and gave little or no information on altitude other than citing some areas as highlands and others as lowlands. The ability, using Google Earth and other three dimentional mapping programs, to match the three dimensional geography of Mesoamerica to the textual descriptions of BofM topography is one of the better evidences of the BofM. Not proof but evidence. The textual description of the River Sidon fits the topography of the Grijalva river in Chiapas in both 2 and 3 dimensions. The following figure shows altitude as a function of length of the two rivers proposed to be the Sidon. This combined with 2 dimentional maps leaves the Grijalva river as the only river in the Americas that fits the more than thirty geographic descriptions of the Sidon.

riveralt.jpg

The ability to fit the text to a real world geographic feature and location is just one of the many features of the text that support the BofM as a real record of an ancient culture that once lived on the American continents.

Larry P

HI Larry,

Frankly I do not find such arguments compelling for a number of reasons.

1st. If I recall correctly you are one of the advocates for the Nephites using a shifted coordinate system (if I am wrong please let me know). Are you also a believer in the Nahom complex of parallels? Because the Nahom complex of parallels depends on a standard coordinate system. If this the case at what point did Nephi and company switch over to the "shifted" coordinate system in the new world? Right after landing? A year or so after? Perhaps a hundred years after? Unless you can pinpoint exactly when North quit meaning North as it was used in the old world i.e.(Nahom directions) and North started meaning the shifted North as used by native Americans. Trying to map the BOM geography is a fools game. Because when Nephi said North way back in 1st Nephi this may actually be a different direction than when Mormon said North at the end of the Nephite civilization. And unless you can pinpoint when the switch happened trying to depend on internal directions is useless.

2nd. Yours is not the only map claiming to identify BOM geography. For example here is a professor of human and physical geography that based on the BOM text places the BOM geography in Baja california:

http://www.achoiceland.com/book_of_mormon_geography

Here is a group that again based on the text seems to hold a hemispheric view of BOM geography.

http://www.bookofmormongeography.net/index.htm

Here is yet another group who places it in western New York.

http://www.bookofmormonlands.com/#pco8

The problem is I can't hold the BOM to my head and receive pure knowledge like all texts it needs to be interpreted and based on how you interpret the geography passages you may get multiple different maps that "fit" the real world. I have no doubt you view your interpretation of the text as the only true and living interpretation :P. Just like I have no doubt most of those other guys who come up with different BOM geography's would claim the same. The issue is interpretation of text is notoriously flexible. The fact that multiple different and contradictory geographies can be arrived at based on claimed adherence to the BOM text greatly weakens the apologetic argument that since the BOM has a fit with real world geography it is more likely to be a real authenticate record of ancient people. All these different and competing geographies can't all be right. So we already have examples of spurious BOM geographies that "fit the real world" hence a "fit with the real world" is weak evidence at best for BOM authenticity.

Best,

Uncertain

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Larry Poulson's geography does not require change in directional systems.

http://bomgeography.poulsenll.org/

It does feature a search of a detailed 3D map of the western hemisphere, looking for candidates that fit the Book of Mormon description of the Sidon, and finds exactly one candidate. That is something the rivals you offer do not provide. Which paradigm is best? Which problems are more significant to have solved?

And there is this, in addition.

http://www.bmaf.org/node/180

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I find the evidence for the Book of Mormon's truthfulness to be in the most pure and sure source of knowledge, the testimonyof the Holy Ghost.

But I am always excited to read about internal evidences of the Book of Mormon's authenticity. The arguments for any other author(s) except the Nephite historians and prophets, all fall flat, not matter who they are. There are things in the Book of Mormon which could not have been known by any 19th century individual, uneducated farm boy or theologian or successful preacher, etc.

Then we are left with a supernatural origin. So, if angels are involved, are they going to give the plates to a group of nefarious charlatans with devious purposes of their own? Or to a sincere young man who would give his life for it?

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Larry Poulson's geography does not require change in directional systems.

http://bomgeography.poulsenll.org/

Are you sure about this? If you look at this figure:

http://bomgeography.poulsenll.org/images/hires_meso.jpg

The coordinates appear to be shifted clockwise i.e.(North is pointing North east). But I freely admit I have not looked into pouslen's geography in a long time.

It does feature a search of a detailed 3D map of the western hemisphere, looking for candidates that fit the Book of Mormon description of the Sidon, and finds exactly one candidate. That is something the rivals you offer do not provide. Which paradigm is best? Which problems are more significant to have solved?

And there is this, in addition.

http://www.bmaf.org/node/180

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

I am not sure this claim is entirely accurate. But suppose it is so what? The point I was trying to make is it is easy to get multiple contradictory BOM geographies depending on how you interpret the text and that interpreting the text is not necessarily a straightforward exercise. Every one of the competing maps (produced by the way by believing LDS) claims to locate the river Sidon based on how they interpret the text. Therefore claiming you can find a candidate for the river Sidon based on the BOM does not seem like all that great of an accomplishment. I have no doubt given how Poulsen interprets the text the Grijalva river matches the river Sidon. I also have no doubt the authors of all the other maps can equally say the same thing about their candidate river Sidons so what? For that matter it is easy to cherry pick what you view as "important" for a given model and claim the other models don't incorporate that point. For example the author of the Baja map makes the point that Baja has a Mediterranean climate which closely matches the middle east. Hence the statement in the BOM about middle eastern crops growing well is a "hit" for his model but a miss for models based in Mesoamerica. No doubt you would disagree with how he interprets the statements in the BOM concerning growing middle eastern crops which is exactly my point. All the competing models are really arguing over how to interpret the BOM and forgive me if I don't get all that excited about the fact that one particular reasonable interpretation of the BOM matches Mesoamerica while other reasonable interpretations of the BOM match other locations on North/South America.

Best,

Uncertain

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It's not just the direction shift that I see as a problem with Larry's map. I definitely do not agree that the slight narrowing there would likely be characterized as a "narrow neck" by people who live there. Especially for people who get around on foot, the width at the narrowest point, from sea to sea, is still pretty vast (~200 Km), approximately equal to the distance from Washington DC to Philadelphia (or Ogden to Pocatello for us westerners).

I just don't envision one of them deciding to call that a "narrow neck of land."

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Are you sure about this? If you look at this figure:

http://bomgeography.poulsenll.org/images/hires_meso.jpg

The coordinates appear to be shifted clockwise i.e.(North is pointing North east). But I freely admit I have not looked into pouslen's geography in a long time.

Best,

Uncertain

Uncertain

The red lines on that map do not represent directions nor are they labeled as such. That map was published in context with other maps on my web site to show the relationship of a quarter system based on rectangular division of the quaters of the land. If you will look carefully you will see that the norten quarter is aligned with true north. The red lines show the borders between quarters.

Here is an internal map showing the various relationships to the geographic features listed in the text of the BofM. Any proposal must explain and relate all of these features to the real world and not just pick several and say they have located the BofM cultural homeland.

intmap.jpg

Larry P

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Are you sure about this? If you look at this figure:

http://bomgeography.poulsenll.org/images/hires_meso.jpg

The coordinates appear to be shifted clockwise i.e.(North is pointing North east). But I freely admit I have not looked into pouslen's geography in a long time.

Best,

Uncertain

Uncertain try looking at it as a piece of pie. they are talking about the North space and not specifically the lines themselves.

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I am not sure this claim is entirely accurate.

How does one finding surety without testing the claim?

But suppose it is so what?

If the Grijalva uniquely matches the Sidon, then we can at least test the other pieces of the puzzle.

The point I was trying to make is it is easy to get multiple contradictory BOM geographies depending on how you interpret the text and that interpreting the text is not necessarily a straightforward exercise. Every one of the competing maps (produced by the way by believing LDS) claims to locate the river Sidon based on how they interpret the text.

I've got Sorenson's 1990/922 Sourcebook. He presents lots of maps, and a report card with 110 criteria for evaluating those maps. In Mormon's Map, he comments at the end that "no one seems to have take" the report card seriously.

Paradigm choice always involves deciding "which problems are more significant to have solved." Fine. But the choice also involves deciding which paradigm is better. And given the presence of at least 110 criteria, we should be able to do some evaluations. John Clark, for one, has graded several competing geographies over the years in terms of how well they match a set of criteria.

Therefore claiming you can find a candidate for the river Sidon based on the BOM does not seem like all that great of an accomplishment. I have no doubt given how Poulsen interprets the text the Grijalva river matches the river Sidon. I also have no doubt the authors of all the other maps can equally say the same thing about their candidate river Sidons so what?

I do have serious doubts about that. Does the Mississippi flow south? Does it have its headwaters in a narrow strip of wilderness that extends from the east sea to the west sea? For that matter, how many such narrow stripes are there?

It should not be a matter of picking out a few favored "problems to have solved" such as America is the Land of Promise, or the Malay Pennisula is my idea North and South, and having to totally ignore the rest of the text.

For that matter it is easy to cherry pick what you view as "important" for a given model and claim the other models don't incorporate that point.

Quite so. So cherry picking should be granted viable status. But, what Sorenson calls fitting together all of the interlocking pieces at least permits testing the text. Even if interpretation and valuing of this or that passage differs, serious attempt should be made to account for everything, from ups and downs, to distances, relative locations, and the presence of the right cultures, weather, technology, and volcanic events, even granting translation and interpretation factors.

For example the author of the Baja map makes the point that Baja has a Mediterranean climate which closely matches the middle east. Hence the statement in the BOM about middle eastern crops growing well is a "hit" for his model but a miss for models based in Mesoamerica. No doubt you would disagree with how he interprets the statements in the BOM concerning growing middle eastern crops which is exactly my point. All the competing models are really arguing over how to interpret the BOM and forgive me if I don't get all that excited about the fact that one particular reasonable interpretation of the BOM matches Mesoamerica while other reasonable interpretations of the BOM match other locations on North/South America.

Best,

Uncertain

You are forgiven. But I would encourage going through the Baja model with the checklist, and then consider cultural factors, as an exercise. The fewer criteria involved, the more dependence on ambiguous passages, the easier it is for any model to seem reasonable. The more involved that provide less ambiguous criteria the harder, and to my way of thinking, the more persuasive and reasonable. Convergence of a multitude of factors in the right time and place, rather than cherry picked points without accompanying convergence, means much less subjectivity in evaluating probabilities.

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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Uncertain

The red lines on that map do not represent directions nor are they labeled as such. That map was published in context with other maps on my web site to show the relationship of a quarter system based on rectangular division of the quaters of the land. If you will look carefully you will see that the norten quarter is aligned with true north. The red lines show the borders between quarters.

Here is an internal map showing the various relationships to the geographic features listed in the text of the BofM. Any proposal must explain and relate all of these features to the real world and not just pick several and say they have located the BofM cultural homeland.

intmap.jpg

Larry P

HI Larry,

I appreciate the correction. One point of clarification I did not believe the lines represented your models cardinal directions instead looking at the map and vaguely remembering a map of Mesoamerica your "northern quarter" did not appear to point north but instead north east. However it is easily possible I read the map wrong and frankly you would know your own work a whole lot better than I would. If you do not believe the Nephites shifted their coordinate system I certainly believe you :P.

Best,

Uncertain

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How does one finding surety without testign the claim?

If the Grijalva uniquely matches the Sidon, then we can at least test the other pieces of the puzzle.

I've got Sorenson's 1990/922 Sourcebook. He presents lots of maps, and a report card with 110 criteria for evaluating those maps. In Mormon's Map, he comments at the end that "no one seems to have take" the report card seriously.

Paradigm choice always involves deciding "which problems are more significant to have solved." Fine. But the choice also involves deciding which paradigm is better. And given the presence of at least 110 criteria, we should be able to do some evaluations. John Clark, for one, has graded several competing geographies over the years in terms of how well they match a set of criteria.

I do have serious doubts about that. Does the Mississippi flow south? Does it have its headwaters in a narrow strip of wilderness that extends from the east sea to the west sea? For that matter, how many such narrow stripes are there?

It should not be a matter of picking out a few favored "problems to have solved" such as America is the Land of Promise, or the Malay Pennisula is my idea North and South, and having to totally ignore the rest of the text.

Quite so. So cherry picking should be granted viable status. But, what Sorenson calls fitting together all of the interlocking pieces at least permits testing the text. Even if interpretation and valuing of this or that passage differs, serious attempt should be made to account for everything, from ups and downs, to distances, relative locations, and the presence of the right cultures, weather, technology, and volcanic events, even granting translation and interpretation factors.

You are forgiven. But I would encourage going through the Baja model with the checklist, and then consider cultural factors, as an exercise. The fewer criteria involved, the more dependence on ambiguous passages, the easier it is for any model to seem reasonable. The more involved that provide less ambiguous criteria the harder, and to my way of thinking, the more persuasive and reasonable. Convergence of a multitude of factors in the right time and place, rather than cherry picked points without accompanying convergence, means much less subjectivity in evaluating probabilities.

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

Hi Kevin,

I am not claiming the Baja model is better than any other. My only point was to show that many different faithful LDS arrive at many different and contradictory maps using "only the text" of the BOM. Hence I am not particularly impressed that the BOM matches the real world somewhere. Since it is clearly evident such a match can be due either to random chance or particular idiosyncratic interpretation of BOM text as is witnessed by the many competing and contradictory maps produced "only" using the BOM text. The fact that so many competing maps can be produced by faithful LDS "only using the BOM text" is pretty good evidence there is not one obviously clear and correct way to interpret BOM references to geography. Is Poulsen's interpretation of the text that leads him to his model a reasonable one? Almost certainly are all the other faithful LDS simply cherry picking particular verses or committing some other egregious flaw that leads them to contradictory conclusions probably not. There simply seems to be wide latitude in how to interpret some BOM references to location. Hence different individuals can legitimately interpret passages different ways I don't see why this is such a shock after all you do argue religion :P. I would also add many of these maps are produced using only internal BOM references. I have no idea if they would match such things as evidence of ancient civilizations with complex writing. But that is not the point I am trying to make I am simply pointing out the "one true way" to interpret text is not always straightforward and that multiple faithful LDS have legitimately interpreted the BOM to map to many different places. Hence finding a match between the BOM internal geography references and the "real world" is not all that compelling it is apparently very easy to do as is evidenced by the many maps that claim to do just that.

Best,

Uncertain

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SNIP

Since it is clearly evident such a match can be due either to random chance or particular idiosyncratic interpretation of BOM text as is witnessed by the many competing and contradictory maps produced "only" using the BOM text. The fact that so many competing maps can be produced by faithful LDS "only using the BOM text" is pretty good evidence there is not one obviously clear and correct way to interpret BOM references to geography.

SNIP

I am simply pointing out the "one true way" to interpret text is not always straightforward and that multiple faithful LDS have legitimately interpreted the BOM to map to many different places. Hence finding a match between the BOM internal geography references and the "real world" is not all that compelling it is apparently very easy to do as is evidenced by the many maps that claim to do just that.

Best,

Uncertain

And my point is that all the maps are testable, not that one is obviously provable. I grant that multiple, plausible, well meaning maps are possible. But throwing up one's hands at the multitude of maps and the relevant Book of Mormon references is not the same thing as conducting the test.

The Nahom story and location, for example is not just a matter of a name. It is the right name, dated to the right time, in the right relative location to both the Bountiful candidates, and the journey south to that point. Convergence. Not a single thing, but many interlocked.

There are different Bountiful candidates, all though, fairly close to each other, in a single candidate region. Differences between Potter and Wellington and the Astons are on relative weighing of things like the need for a protected harbour versus the need for a nearby Mount. Reasons, one way or the other, can be given, relative to a fairly well defined list of criteria.

When I was first hearing a presentation on the Malay Penninsula hypothesis, I was not too surprised when the problem of Cumorah and the prophesy about Columbus were not mentioned. Which problems were more significant to have solved? For the author, clearly, not those. But without solving those, what is the point?

Any proposal is fine. "A wrong idea is better than no idea," as Nibley says. "At least it gives you something to shoot at." Each proposal can be tested, point for point. The sheer number of interlocking requirements provided by the Book of Mormon text, in principle, if not yet in consistent practice, provides a way to test. The need to look beyond New York for a reasonable Cumorah/Ramah comes from the text. The Limhi explorers story, and some Jaredite flight stories, for example. Those who wrestle with the issues may not agree right away, but they at least help identify and clarity those issues. And with greater clarity, the testing improves.

The oft quoted Joseph Fielding Smith Church News article, I notice, argued against the two Cumorah idea based on an appeal to tradition, without ever examining the beginnings. The quantify of repetition substituted for quality of thought, following an assumption that somewhere along the line, someone must have thought this through. And then he offered a single "land of many waters" passage as a "perfect" description of the Great Lakes. That, I think, was not a particularly good test. Not comprehensive, not coherent, dealing with all the key predictions, not addressing the relevant narratives.

Sorenson discusses an 1838 account of unspecified "brethren" claiming that Manti was in Randolf County, Missouri. He points out that in the Book of Mormon, Manti is south of Zarahemla, and therefore south of the Narrow Neck, and not far from the headwaters of the Northward flowing Sidon. Without even getting into the "narrow strip of wilderness that extends from the east sea to the west sea," Sorenson can point out that no location in North America fits. (Sourcebook, 373.) The story is testable. If a model proposes a candidate location, fine. But test it as far as possible.

One might quibble about how to interpret this or that passage in Sorenson's 110 element check list. One might also refine and improve his observations, and add new elements, such as Poulson's close look at the Sidon texts. But if we continually ignore the resources we have, we should not expect to make progress. Waiting for revelation to settle things would not demonstrate the prerequisite "study it out in your minds..."

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

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I have seen several threads on the merits of various alternative theories for Book of Mormon origins (esp. the Spaulding theory). In all this, the wealth of evidence supporting the claims the BoM makes for itself has been barely mentioned. So, my question is, at what point do we consider it? Is it meaningless as long as someone can argue for any alternative hypothesis?

(for Kenngo1969) Yours under the Oaks faction,

Nathair /|\

One line of evidence that has intrigued me lately is the complex ways in which Mormon edited his text. A careful study of his work as editor betrays a text with a depth and a complexity that seems very unlikely to have been accomplished by Joseph Smith given the conditions under which eye witnesses describe the translation process. Some of these points have been captured in FARMS publications. For example, see here: http://bomevidence.wordpress.com/complexity/

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Because the Nahom complex of parallels depends on a standard coordinate system. If this the case at what point did Nephi and company switch over to the "shifted" coordinate system in the new world? Right after landing? A year or so after? Perhaps a hundred years after? Unless you can pinpoint exactly when North quit meaning North as it was used in the old world i.e.(Nahom directions) and North started meaning the shifted North as used by native Americans.

You are correct that any suggestion that there is a difference in the perception of directions from the Old World to the New World must be explained. Your implication that it would be difficult is not correct. In fact, it is not surprising that there would be a difference, because things such as directions are culturally determined. While we "know" that north is north, that is simply a cultural definition that doesn't hold if you examine how indigenous peoples see the world.

As for the Book of Mormon, we have Nephi writing at least 30 years after arriving in the New World. If he is describing a New World geography, it would make sense to describe it in the terms associated with that geography. Hence 30 years is plenty of time, particularly if you posit a combination of his people with indigenous populations (which, frankly, had to have occurred no matter where the Book of Mormon took place).

Trying to map the BOM geography is a fools game. Because when Nephi said North way back in 1st Nephi this may actually be a different direction than when Mormon said North at the end of the Nephite civilization. And unless you can pinpoint when the switch happened trying to depend on internal directions is useless.

Hardly. Fools can play the game, but not well. It is a complex process and geography is really only a piece of the puzzle. If one has a plausible geography, it must then compare correctly to the historical and cultural information in the text. If it does not, then the geography isn't useful. For example, any geography that requires that land be under water at a time when we know people were living there is necessarily disqualified.

2nd. Yours is not the only map claiming to identify BOM geography. For example here is a professor of human and physical geography that based on the BOM text places the BOM geography in Baja california:

There are lots of geographies. Among geographies alone, the issue is the ability to match the over 400 qualifiers in the text that deal with geography. It is possible that more than one location will do that (though I haven't yet seen it). Geography is only the beginning, however.

So we already have examples of spurious BOM geographies that "fit the real world" hence a "fit with the real world" is weak evidence at best for BOM authenticity.

Perhaps if your sole qualification of "fits with the real world" is geography (and topography, and hydrology, and climate, etc.). The text has quite a few ways in which the geography has to interact with history and with cultures. The best geographic correlation would fail if there were no people living in that location at the required time (or without large-scale agriculture to sustain the populations, etc.).

The evidence used to correlate the Book of Mormon to "the real world" has gone far beyond geography. However, work such as Larry's tells us that there are still necessary refinements even when we have a gross geography that works. His explanation of directionality is superior to Sorenson's, although Sorenson presaged it when he discussed how directions are culturally defined. He simply didn't see the one that should have been obvious to all of us - but for some reason only Larry saw and explained.

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When I was first hearing a presentation on the Malay Penninsula hypothesis, I was not too surprised when the problem of Cumorah and the prophesy about Columbus were not mentioned. Which problems were more significant to have solved? For the author, clearly, not those. But without solving those, what is the point?

I decided to use the Malay hypothesis as a test case for the interlocking criteria I use for establishing the Book of Mormon in and against history. There are multiple points that have to come together. While that hypothesis worked on some levels, it completely fell apart on others-even in the geography. However, when other features were added, it wasn't even close (wrong people at the wrong time, migrating from the wrong directions, etc.)

I think the Malay hypothesis is really quite valuable as an expression of something that might seem like a good fit, until you examine it with rigorous criteria.

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I decided to use the Malay hypothesis as a test case for the interlocking criteria I use for establishing the Book of Mormon in and against history. There are multiple points that have to come together. While that hypothesis worked on some levels, it completely fell apart on others-even in the geography. However, when other features were added, it wasn't even close (wrong people at the wrong time, migrating from the wrong directions, etc.)

I think the Malay hypothesis is really quite valuable as an expression of something that might seem like a good fit, until you examine it with rigorous criteria.

Ah... I remember that now. A very nice piece of work. Things like the problem of the Lamanites being able to outnumber the Nephites when the Malay model offered limits them to a much smaller territory.

John Clark's essays in the FARMS Review, tackling various proposals against textual requirements has been enlightening as well.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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I have seen several threads on the merits of various alternative theories for Book of Mormon origins (esp. the Spaulding theory). In all this, the wealth of evidence supporting the claims the BoM makes for itself has been barely mentioned. So, my question is, at what point do we consider it? Is it meaningless as long as someone can argue for any alternative hypothesis?

(for Kenngo1969) Yours under the Oaks faction,

Nathair /|\

Unlike others we have not had thousands of years of exploration to confirm or deny anything yet.

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And my point is that all the maps are testable, not that one is obviously provable. I grant that multiple, plausible, well meaning maps are possible. But throwing up one's hands at the multitude of maps and the relevant Book of Mormon references is not the same thing as conducting the test.

The Nahom story and location, for example is not just a matter of a name. It is the right name, dated to the right time, in the right relative location to both the Bountiful candidates, and the journey south to that point. Convergence. Not a single thing, but many interlocked.

There are different Bountiful candidates, all though, fairly close to each other, in a single candidate region. Differences between Potter and Wellington and the Astons are on relative weighing of things like the need for a protected harbour versus the need for a nearby Mount. Reasons, one way or the other, can be given, relative to a fairly well defined list of criteria.

When I was first hearing a presentation on the Malay Penninsula hypothesis, I was not too surprised when the problem of Cumorah and the prophesy about Columbus were not mentioned. Which problems were more significant to have solved? For the author, clearly, not those. But without solving those, what is the point?

Any proposal is fine. "A wrong idea is better than no idea," as Nibley says. "At least it gives you something to shoot at." Each proposal can be tested, point for point. The sheer number of interlocking requirements provided by the Book of Mormon text, in principle, if not yet in consistent practice, provides a way to test. The need to look beyond New York for a reasonable Cumorah/Ramah comes from the text. The Limhi explorers story, and some Jaredite flight stories, for example. Those who wrestle with the issues may not agree right away, but they at least help identify and clarity those issues. And with greater clarity, the testing improves.

The oft quoted Joseph Fielding Smith Church News article, I notice, argued against the two Cumorah idea based on an appeal to tradition, without ever examining the beginnings. The quantify of repetition substitued for quality of thought, following an assumption that somewhere along the line, someone must have thought this through. And then he offered a single "land of many waters" passage as a "perfect" description of the Great Lakes. That, I think, was not a particularly good test. Not comprehensive, not coherent, dealing with all the key predictions, not addressing the relevant narratives.

Sorenson discusses an 1838 account of unspecified "brethren" claiming that Manti was in Randolf County, Missouri. He points out that in the Book of Mormon, Manti is south of Zarahemla, and therefore south of the Narrow Neck, and not far from the headwaters of the Northward flowing Sidon. Without even getting into the "narrow strip of wilderness that extends from the east sea to the west sea," Sorenson can point out that no location in North America fits. (Sourcebook, 373.) The story is testable. If a model proposes a candidate location, fine. But test it as far as possible.

One might quibble about how to interpret this or that passage in Sorenson's 110 element check list. One might also refine and improve his observations, and add new elements, such as Poulson's close look at the Sidon texts. But if we continually ignore the resources we have, we should not expect to make progress. Waiting for revelation to settle things would not demonstrate the prerequisite "study it out in your minds..."

Kevin Christensen

Bethel Park, PA

Look their appears to be some moving of the goalposts here. The claim I was addressing is that since the BOM internal geography references can be matched to a location in the real world this is strong evidence the BOM is historical. As evidence for this claim a link to Poulsens map doing just this was given. As you appear to acknowledge in your above response using internal BOM geography references multiple plausible maps are produced by faithful LDS. Given this is the case it considerably weakens the original claim which is that the match between BOM internal geography references and the real world is strong evidence the BOM is historical. You are apparently now trying to modify the original argument to something else. I have no doubt if you looked at all the many different maps produced using BOM internal references and compared them on the basis of things like surrounding culture and climate some maps would look better than others. This is not the argument I am addressing I am simply pointing out many different plausible but contradictory maps can be produced on the basis of internal BOM references to geography therefore the fact the BOM can be mapped to the real world using internal geography references is not impressive. I have no desire to engage every apologetic claim made concerning Mesoamerica ranging from migration of peoples to parallels in culture and language. There isn't enough time in the day.

I have no doubt based on how you interpret the BOM Mesoamerica is the clear winner when all these things are taken into consideration. I also have no doubt all those other groups believe the same thing based on their interpretation of the BOM. I also have no doubt they would also claim "multiple interlocking pieces of evidence support their maps". As you have pointed out and I agree with it all depends on which particular problems the authors think are most important and how the BOM text is interpreted. For example I am certain the proponents of placing the BOM in N. America interpret passages regarding a "land of liberty" a "choice land" and a "land without kings" as very differently than you do and would place a greater weight on their interpretation than you would. At the end of the day you are all just arguing over which interpretation of the BOM is the "correct" one. Basing grand edifices on something as slippery as interpreting scriptural text is not exactly a way to build a sound and compelling argument. I would also add I find some of the interpretations of the BOM that are necessary to fit the Mesoamerica model to be entirely forced. For example it is necessary for the most popular version of the LGM based in Mesoamerica to interpret all references to a dark skin as metaphorical. It is very easy not to see how well the BOM fits a given model but to interpret the BOM such that it will fit your favorite model (whatever that model may be). As I said and is clearly evident interpreting scripture is a slippery beast and it is easy to see what one wants to see.

Best,

Uncertain

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You are correct that any suggestion that there is a difference in the perception of directions from the Old World to the New World must be explained. Your implication that it would be difficult is not correct. In fact, it is not surprising that there would be a difference, because things such as directions are culturally determined. While we "know" that north is north, that is simply a cultural definition that doesn't hold if you examine how indigenous peoples see the world.

I completely acknowledge there could be a different perception of directions in the Old World compared to the New world never at any point did I mean to imply this would be "difficult to explain". What I did state is this:

"Because the Nahom complex of parallels depends on a standard coordinate system. If this the case at what point did Nephi and company switch over to the "shifted" coordinate system in the new world? Right after landing? A year or so after? Perhaps a hundred years after? Unless you can pinpoint exactly when North quit meaning North as it was used in the old world i.e.(Nahom directions) and North started meaning the shifted North as used by native Americans. Trying to map the BOM geography is a fools game. Because when Nephi said North way back in 1st Nephi this may actually be a different direction than when Mormon said North at the end of the Nephite civilization. And unless you can pinpoint when the switch happened trying to depend on internal directions is useless."

And I still believe this is a perfectly valid concern. How can it not be?

As for the Book of Mormon, we have Nephi writing at least 30 years after arriving in the New World. If he is describing a New World geography, it would make sense to describe it in the terms associated with that geography. Hence 30 years is plenty of time, particularly if you posit a combination of his people with indigenous populations (which, frankly, had to have occurred no matter where the Book of Mormon took place).

This is a completely ad hoc supposition designed to salvage a particular apologetic claim. There is simply nothing in the text stating when the Nephites quite using the old world coordinate system and started using the New World. This is exactly the sort of thing I am referring to in my response to Kevin. It is very easy to arrive at ad hoc "patches" or scriptural interpretations to salvage a favored model. Reading the text to "fit" a given model not comparing the model to the text. Maybe you are right maybe Nephi is using the New world coordinate system to describe the New World. But maybe not after all Nephi for the first 20 odd years of his life used the Old World system all the rest of the middle eastern travelers would be familiar with this coordinate system it worked perfectly fine and it would continue to work perfectly fine in the New World. After all that's the entire point of having a standard system of coordinates it will work more or less wherever you are on the earths surface. I have no problem with the idea eventually the Nephite's would have switched over to the New World system. I have a big problem when there is absolutely no evidence in the text when this happens so the most apologetically convenient answer is automatically used simply to salvage existing apologetic models.

There are lots of geographies. Among geographies alone, the issue is the ability to match the over 400 qualifiers in the text that deal with geography. It is possible that more than one location will do that (though I haven't yet seen it). Geography is only the beginning, however.

I am not convinced your 400 qualifiers are as set in stone as you seem to claim. There is considerable ambiguity in exactly how to interpret text dealing with geography. As there is in interpreting the BOM text in general.

Perhaps if your sole qualification of "fits with the real world" is geography (and topography, and hydrology, and climate, etc.). The text has quite a few ways in which the geography has to interact with history and with cultures. The best geographic correlation would fail if there were no people living in that location at the required time (or without large-scale agriculture to sustain the populations, etc.).

The evidence used to correlate the Book of Mormon to "the real world" has gone far beyond geography. However, work such as Larry's tells us that there are still necessary refinements even when we have a gross geography that works. His explanation of directionality is superior to Sorenson's, although Sorenson presaged it when he discussed how directions are culturally defined. He simply didn't see the one that should have been obvious to all of us - but for some reason only Larry saw and explained.

Again I have no doubt how you interpret the BOM Mesoamerica is a great fit. I believe we would disagree that your interpretation is necessarily the best most clearly correct interpretation. For example I would vigorously disagree that all references to skin color in the BOM are metaphorical and that this is the superior interpretation of the text.

Best,

Uncertain

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And I still believe this is a perfectly valid concern. How can it not be?

Please remember that you are dealing with a time period prior to when there was any actual mapping convention. All directions were given according to localized instructions. If you ask someone where something is and they say "north", you will have the definition of north according to the way they perceive it. When 30 years have passed in the New World, 30 years of referring to "north" according to a different conceptual system won't seem unusual at all. It is only problematic for the modern mind that assumes that there is some kind of constant and that we always know exactly where north is. That is not a historically accurate assumption.

This is a completely ad hoc supposition designed to salvage a particular apologetic claim. There is simply nothing in the text stating when the Nephites quite using the old world coordinate system and started using the New World.

There is a tremendous amount that is not in the text. In fact, it is often the absence of explanatory material that tells us that the text was written by people who assumed that we knew things that we really don't know.

However, suggesting that this is an ad hoc supposition suggests that you are unaware of the background in history and anthropology that lies behind the suggestions. From an ethnohistorical standpoint, it is the supposition that would be most natural for the real world. Your suggestion that it has to remain constant is actually an anachronistic supposition.

Reading the text to "fit" a given model not comparing the model to the text.

If anyone reads the text assuming that there is a fit and then makes only those selections from the text that fit the hypothesis and ignoring others, they have made a grave methodological mistake. In this case, if you assume that you are conversing with Mesoamerican theorists who have done that, you are insufficiently aware of the work that has been done. It simply is not the case.

I will freely admit that we don't all agree on all points, but that is quite different that suggesting that the points have been selected in order to fit a theory. I know that in my case I began reading the text against a Mesoamerican background, but I understood from the beginning how dangerous that approach was. There are any number of places where the initial assumption would not agree with the text -- unless -- the Mesoamerican background were actually the appropriate historical context. The confluence of a very large amount of information lies behind my suggestion, not simply geography.

I have a big problem when there is absolutely no evidence in the text when this happens so the most apologetically convenient answer is automatically used simply to salvage existing apologetic models.

Before turning my attention to the Book of Mormon, I worked with Mesoamerican ethnohistory. If I were unable to use ethnographic analogy to understand the unstated in texts, I would understand few texts. Your suggestion that this approach is simply to salvage a pre-existing model tells me that you have no experience in ethnohistory.

I am not convinced your 400 qualifiers are as set in stone as you seem to claim. There is considerable ambiguity in exactly how to interpret text dealing with geography. As there is in interpreting the BOM text in general.

Fortunately, Sorenson has outlined all of them. You are quite welcome to examine them, and his analysis. Criticisms are welcome. That is, by the way, the way that Larry came up with his revision of the Mesoamerican geography. Same basic data, but interpreting them in slightly different ways. It is absolutely true that they have to be interpreted. It is not true that the fact that they have to be interpreted means that they can be applied without rigor to multiple locations.

Again I have no doubt how you interpret the BOM Mesoamerica is a great fit. I believe we would disagree that your interpretation is necessarily the best most clearly correct interpretation.

Fortunately, the information is in print and you are free to criticize the specifics. Please do.

For example I would vigorously disagree that all references to skin color in the BOM are metaphorical and that this is the superior interpretation of the text.

I would love to see your defense of that position. Please make sure that you examine at least all of the references I have when I developed the hypothesis you are criticizing. I will tell you that I began with the same hypothesis as you have, but was forced by the text to change my mind.

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What do ye think about Nibley's Lehi in the Desert? Apart from the witness of the Holy Ghost, that was the first thing I saw that looked really significant in terms of evidentary value.

It is really quite rare that a text from that long ago would still provide valuable insights. More and better are available, but they tend to be refinements rather than replacements for much of what Nibley did in that book. I wouldn't read it without the more recent work, but I would never suggest skipping it.

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This is a completely ad hoc supposition designed to salvage a particular apologetic claim. There is simply nothing in the text stating when the Nephites quite using the old world coordinate system and started using the New World. This is exactly the sort of thing I am referring to in my response to Kevin. It is very easy to arrive at ad hoc "patches" or scriptural interpretations to salvage a favored model. Reading the text to "fit" a given model not comparing the model to the text. Maybe you are right maybe Nephi is using the New world coordinate system to describe the New World. But maybe not after all Nephi for the first 20 odd years of his life used the Old World system all the rest of the middle eastern travelers would be familiar with this coordinate system it worked perfectly fine and it would continue to work perfectly fine in the New World. After all that's the entire point of having a standard system of coordinates it will work more or less wherever you are on the earths surface. I have no problem with the idea eventually the Nephite's would have switched over to the New World system. I have a big problem when there is absolutely no evidence in the text when this happens so the most apologetically convenient answer is automatically used simply to salvage existing apologetic models.

Uncertain

What evidence do you have that Nephi was using the same coordinate system as we use today? Ancient cultures oriented their directional system based on the sun's position. No magnetic compass was available until Marco Polo retuned from China in about 1200 AD. The oldest known map of Palestine is oriented to east as described at this site.

http://www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/Ancient%20Web%20Pages/121mono.html

It describes the map as follows:

The surviving sections depict biblical Palestine from Salem, south of Bet She' an, to the Nile Delta. The map is oriented with east at the top, and the Mediterranean coastline runs straight from left to right, aligning Alexandria with the Holy Land coast and tracing the Nile east to west. A study of the source material and three fragments elsewhere in the floor indicates that originally the map measured nearly seven by twenty-two meters, plus a wide margin, and depicted the area from Byblus and Damascus in the north to Alexandria and the Red Sea in the south.

For further discussion of the directional concepts of ancient cultures see:

http://www.poulsenll.org/bom/bomdirections.html

As Brant has already told you, before you accuse apologists of ad hoc explanations, you need to become more familiar with the beliefs and practices of ancient cultures and not base your conclusions on your modern concepts (the logical fallacy of presentism) of how you think things should be.

Larry P

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