Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Misguided Zeal: DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography

There are a few LDS folks giving seminars and firesides trying to prove that the correct location for Book of Mormon lands is in the New York and Great Lakes area. Some of these stir up excitement about the vast hoard of Michigan Relics that supposedly support the Book of Mormon (lots of slate engravings and some copper relics as well). Unfortunately, these have been determined to be fraudulent. Twice, in fact. They had been donated to the Church but, in light of their lack of relevance to the Book of Mormon, the Church recently gave them to the Michigan Historical Museum. I would be suspicious of any lecturer claiming that these are authentic, and especially claiming that God has told him that they are real. People are welcome to their views on the difficult topic of Book of Mormon geography, but when unauthorized voices begin telling us what God thinks on this matter, for which no official revelations have been given, something may be out of whack.

One voice in particular, the author of the DVD, DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography, appears to be claiming inspiration and divine guidance as he challenges or rather ignores the body of evidence presented by LDS scholars over many years pointing to Mesoamerica, and implies that LDS scholars are akin to apostates for allegedly not taking Joseph Smith's revelations seriously. His approach may well be described as "misguided zeal," the title of a response being prepared by FAIRLDS.org. See part 1 of this response: "Misguided Zeal and Defense of the Church" (PDF file). The motivation for the FAIRLDS response is not so much that they disagree with the arguments, but that inappropriate claims of divine guidance for matters relevant to the whole Church are being made. It's sad that such critiques are needed for the work of fellow LDS people, but people may be harmed by basis testimony on bad science that can easily be refuted, at the risk of damaging their faith in the process.

22 comments:

Greg Smith said...

Jeff is too modest to tell us, but HE is one of those wayward scholars who is doubting the revelation that the DVD claims that Joseph Smith had (but that the Church has denied him having).

[35:07] This next part, I originally considered not having this in. But it is important for one reason. In the gospel, we know that it is "by their works that you shall know things."

[35:23] By the fruit, right? What is the fruit of the Central American theories? Now, originally I had the names and the references but I have deliberately withheld those because this is not about the individuals. This is about where the individuals had to go in order to place the Book of Mormon in Central America.

[35:48] And these are direct quotes from their written works. OK? "Since Moroni offered Joseph Smith only a brief sketch, it is unlikely that he revealed to Joseph a comprehensive knowledge of Native American origins. It is important to understand that Joseph Smith did not have access to this knowledge. He translated the book, but apparently did not know the scope of its geography."

[36:18] How does that fit with the three times Joseph Smith testified he knew? Not very well. This is the kind of stuff that the anti-Mormons just love. They love to see our LDS scholars dismissing Joseph Smith because they know, they can see these things that Joseph Smith has written and they're not being followed by the scholarly community of the church, unfortunately.
- Rod Meldrum, DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography: New scientific support for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; Correlation and Verification through DNA, Prophetic, Scriptural, Historical, Climatological, Archaeological, Social, and Cultural Evidence (Rod Meldrum, 2008), Section #3, "Joseph Smith," time stamps are approximate.

The portion is quoted from this very website, though without attribution.

So, gentle reader, this blog is written by someone that Meldrum claims President Hinckley is displeased with. You have been warned.

As the DVD says, "Well, whoever these people are, they have plucked the fruit. They've already received some of the fruit. But they're cutting off the roots. That is my bottom line."[Ibid., 38:15]

Jeff, put the fruit back, back away slowly, and apologize! :-)

Still not all of us get rebuked by President Hinckley for our blogs. You're famous.

Mormanity said...

Wow, I missed his quotation of me. Cool! And without attribution, eh? That approach always raises a few questions.

I suppose President Hinckley must have been reading my Web pages and my blog. No wonder he stayed so young and alert!

SteSmo said...

I cringed when I saw Meldrum use that quote against LDS scholars in his DVD. It was only a matter of time, I thought, until FAIR or FARMS or someone is going to jump on him for that.

Seems my prophetic ability has been confirmed. Now all of you, bow and grovel at my feet! For I am Steve, knower of all!!

/witticism

;0)

Darion Alexander said...

Is there the slight possibility that this has something to do with the man in Appleton who covered himself in barbecue sauce to hide from the government??

Mormanity said...

I missed that story. Can you fill me in, Darion?

Mormanity said...

Wait, here it is: Urban Disguise: The Barbecue Sauce Burglar. This is not a normal Appleton experience. Most burglars here prefer cheese sauce.

Randy said...

I am a little bothered by a group of scholars who claim to know more than Joseph Smith on who and where the Book of Mormon people and places are. If God can trust Joseph Smith to restore the Church and the Priesthood why not tell him about the history of the Native Americans? He had yearly interviews with Moroni until he received the plates. Joseph Smith talked about the Book of Mormon people to his family as if he knew them personally, which he did know at least one, Moroni, himself. And how can we know for sure what he talked about with Moroni and what God taught him about world history and other things? He was the first prophet of this dispensation with a great responsibility to restart this Church and to keep it going against all odds. Why would he give statements about Nephites and Lamanites here in North America unless he knew what he was talking about? I believe that only part of the Book of Mormon events happened in Central America. If anyone is interested please visit www.platesofmormon.wordpress.com for more information.

Greg Smith said...

The issue is not what scholars think. The issue is that the Church has long said there is no revealed geography.

If Joseph revealed a geography, then the Church ought to be promoting it and protecting it. Since he did not, they do not.

Anyone can have any opinion one wants. The problem is claims to revelation, mis-citation of words of the prophet, and claims that Joseph's statements about North America (but nowhere else) were revelatory.

_I_ am troubled by members who think they know more about whether Joseph had revelation on the topic than the prophets, seers, and revelators of the Church. :-)

Anonymous said...

" bad science that can easily be refuted"

Pot, meet kettle.

Keep infighting, I'm enjoying it. Goes to show how ridiculous it all is...

Anonymous said...

That cliche is getting a bit worn, isn't it? Pot, meet kettle. Clever, eh?

Ray D said...

"Misguided zeal" is a rather charitable way of putting it. It assumes that the proponents of this kind of "evidence", whatever it might be, sincerely believe they have found the truth.

Scholars have attached the term "pious fraud" to evidences like this that are clearly, um, fraudulent - things like the ossuary of James, or the many claims of Ron Wyatt.

The idea behind pious frauds is that it's okay to lie if you're promoting a certain religious ideal, because the end justifies the means. I still can't understand why people think they need to lie to promote the cause of Him who said, "Thou shalt not bear false witness."

As for BofM evidences, nobody's found a "Welcome to Zarahemla" sign yet. I can wait for it. Nobody has found a (legitimate) "Jesus Christ slept here" sign in Israel, either.

Anonymous said...

I like 'pot meet kettle.' It's not about being clever -- it's about being precise. If you hear it too often, it must describe you all too well.

And the Jesus sign? Really, that comparison again? There is a difference, we have multiple source evidencing Jesus' existence, and the places spoken of are identifiable. For the BoM,we have one book that came forth without any source evidence. (gold plates in heaven = the million dollars I'm getting for helping a Nigerian prince regain his throne).

cordoor said...

I watched the DNA Evidence video just a few days ago. It was given to me by a friend who enjoyed it.

I actually really enjoyed the video. I love Mormanity too, which is why I came here to see what Jeff had to say about it (if anything).

Honestly I did not recognize the source of that quote regarding Joseph's possible lack of understanding of Book of Mormon Geography. Kind of funny to now find out it was from Jeff?

At any rate, the video rang true for me. All of the study I've done on Mesoamerica as a Book of Mormon location never really rang true like this video did.

I always thought it was interesting that people find it so easy to discount things Joseph Smith said. Joseph talked with Moroni on several occasions. He translated the book. It's hard for me to believe he didn't receive a lot of revelation and many visions on the civilization whose stories he was translating.

So in a way the DNA Evidence for BofM Geography vindicated Joseph for me...simply because it rang true for me.

Zera Pulsipher said...

@cordoor

I've always found it important to be wary most especially of things that "ring true". If there is a God there is a Devil, and a being like that will use every means possible to mislead and destroy others. I highly suggest reading the PDF Jeff posted or the html version of it available from a link and Fair LDS's frontpage. If one is using deception of any sort I can unequivocally declare that not only is it not the work of God but that it is that of the Devil. And the fact remains that Mr. Meldrum has used deceptive means to further the point of his ambition. It's also of note that near his death Joseph seemed to be looking south as the location of the BoM so while "vindicating" his early views it would do the opposite for his later views. Mr. Meldrum seems to me to be the quintessential wolf in sheep's clothing the only difference being the wolf believes it is a sheep.

Darion Alexander said...

Zera,

If Joseph was looking South for the location of the BoM before his death, then where was he looking before that time period? And where are your sources on that, because I'd sure like to check them out.

cordoor said...

@Zera

I appreciate your concern. I really do. I've already read the PDF and quite frankly thought it was misleading and deceptive. I just don't recall Bro. Meldrum emphasizing, or saying, anything in the video that would lead me to believe he was pushing it on us as revelation received from God, passed through him, to us. I just didn't see that. Perhaps I'll watch again and look specifically for that.

Things that have "rang true" for me in the past have actually turned out to be true. For example, the first time I saw the movie "The First Vision," that rang true for me more than anything I've ever seen. Prior to that I could not believe that Joseph saw the vision. But after watching that video for the first time I hung my hat on Joseph Smith for a long, long time, until I had other experiences that helped build my testimony in other areas.

The first time I read the works of Bastiat, they rang true. Then I found other docs that also rang true that taught the same principles, such as Benson's Proper Role of Government.

The interesting thing about truth is that it is just that: true. It doesn't really matter who delivers the truth, or in what way the truth is delivered. It just is what it is.

I am not here to "testify" that what is in that video is true. I don't feel that strongly about the video itself. Everyone can watch the video for themselves and draw their own conclusions.

If I were to "testify" that "I know" the Book of Mormon location were in the Eastern United States, what could anyone say that would convince me otherwise? Would it even be appropriate for someone to say, "You can't testify of that because 'the brethren' have not declared the location?" It wouldn't. The point is essentially settled as far as the "testifying individual" is concerned.

I'm not doing that here. I'm simply saying I enjoyed the video. A lot of its content "tasted good" to me. And if Bro. Meldrum is found to be a liar, then the truth doesn't change either way (whatever it happens to be).

Mormanity said...

Off topic, but I'm so glad to see that there is someone out there who has read Bastiat, as well as the related LDS work, The Proper Role of Government. Bastiat's brief work from 1850, The Law, should be read by every American, in my opinion - especially those who wish to vote.

Anonymous said...

I watched this video tonight and I also thought it felt true..maybe those who discount his research should go and pray about it first. It only makes plausible sense that the Book of Mormon lands were here in the America's. I have believed this for along time without the evidence..No I am not a scholar, just a lowly LDS mom who loves to go to the temple ..and who occasionally has insights about things and then I am led to works of other people which prove the validity of my impressions. In the mouths of 2 or 3 witnesses....sometimes if you delve too deep into the science you miss the boat of the spiritual witness.

Cassandra said...

Previous commenter,

Nobody is dissing Meldrum's conclusions, except by bringing up legitimate doubts about the Michigan artifacts. This really isn't about geography.

Look, it's terrific that you study and think about this and seek the Spirit. It really is. The only problem can begin when you start teaching your conclusions as doctrine or hinting that church leaders are chiding those who disagree with you. That's what it pretty fairly sounds like Meldrum did. He even fessed up and removed the President Hinckley quote, saying he'd used it incorretly and that it does not in fact refer to anyone's opinions on Book of Mormon geography.

So everyone go on thinking and theorizing and studying--that's terrific. We all just need a little reminder in what is private opinion or inspiration and what is appropriate to teach publicly. Meldrum can publicly teach theories, but crosses the line in saying it is wrong and shady to disagree.

Anonymous said...

I believe Rodney’s DVD speaks for itself. The thrust of his message and the facts that lead him to his conclusions are all plainly stated in the content of the DVD. One need not peer into private Emails, never intended to be shared publicly, in order to discern what Rodney is about. Those of a different perspective than that of an author’s could easily misunderstand one’s personal communications. This is particularly true of communications such as those that might discuss the content of “personal blessings.” It is ironic that a group such as ”FAIR” would claim that the purpose of this personal communication to which they refer (a communication Rodney intended to be received only be some close trusted associates already agreeing with his conclusion) would have the “intention of convincing them that [Rodney’s] course is in harmony with the powers of heaven.” Should not the principle of the Savior’s council, found in Matt 7:6, be heeded in this case of FAIR’s publication of this personal information as well?

Further, count the actual references found within the FAIR publication “Misguided Zeal and Defense of the Church” that are from the CONTENT of the DVD. While doing this, remember that Rodney has for some time published on his website a retraction* concerning the way he used a quote from President Hinckley, which stated: “They would pluck the fruit from the tree while cutting off the root from which it grows.” Knowing that that statement is now not a part of his dictum, from the remaining number, count only those references with which FAIR disagrees. The result of this experiment will be the sum and substance of this article.

If one wants to know what Rodney is truly saying, watch the video! Then seek a personal answer (not overlooking prayer and inspiration) as to rather the conclusions presented are representative of the facts outlined.

==
* The retraction is found it on the front page of his website which is:
http://bookofmormonevidence.org/

Vincent Newmeyer

Tyler said...

For those who mock FAIR for not addressing the content of the video, they have finally released the review of his work which does go over the content of his video. You can read it here:

http://www.fairlds.org/DNA_Evidence_for_Book_of_Mormon_Geography/

The reason that there was not content in the first review, was for Meldrum himself. FAIR gave Meldrum the review so he could change any his information that was false. He changed nothing, so two months later, FAIR released it.

Markc said...

If the location was not revealed to Joseph Smith, and he is the author of the BOM, and no one can definitively prove where this took place as there aren't any substantive archeological evidence, then how can one presume to believe that it happened at all?
It seems that everyone is trying to prove a negative, it is just impossible.