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

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

More Thoughts on the Heartland Model of Book of Mormon Geography

The Book of Mormon Archeology Foundation (BMAF.org) has a handy short list of major flaws with the recent "Heartland Model" for Book of Mormon geography. While most LDS scholars who grapple with details of Book of Mormon geography see Mesoamerica as the most likely or only reasonably candidate for the ancient New World setting of the Book of Mormon, several people have loudly touted an alternative model in which a portion of our present-day United States was where the Nephites dwelt. In that model, some of the Great Lakes represent the seas referred to in the Book of Mormon, and the great cities and temples of the Nephites and Lamanites are to be found in ancient mounds of dirt created by ancient Native Americans. While there are extensive resources at BMAF.org, the Maxwell Institute, and FAIRLDS.org that can be used to refute the Heartland Model, sometimes it's nice to boil numerous complex issues down to a dew bullet points. Here's a handy list from BMAF.org:

(1) no major river running South to North, Mississippi River flows North to South.
(2) no mountainous strip of wilderness that can hide Gadianton robbers, defend against Lamanites and serve as military dividing line for Captain Moroni (Alma 22:33-34,50:11).

(3) very little gold and silver east of the Mississippi.
(4) no evidence of cement buildings anywhere in eastern U.S. or Canada, archaeologists have determined that the vast majority of discovered archaeological sites dating to the time period of the Book of Mormon are located in Mesoamerica.

(5) no evidence that Adena and Hopewell co-existed for 250 years. We make a grave mistake in trying to piece together the historical puzzle of the Book of Mormon if we ignore the traditional history of Mesoamerica.

(6) Adena and Hopewell were not true civilizations, but were small, loosely knit, family related units with no evidence of a written language. The area in and around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec constituted the embryo for both the calendar system and the written language of the Americas. This fact alone virtually eliminates any other geographical area from being considered as “lands of the Book of Mormon."

(7) So-called DNA "Proofs" use unsubstantiated theories.
(8)  Joseph Smith did not receive revelation where Book of Mormon lands were located, but his last statements about Book of Mormon geography point us to Mesoamerica  (click here to see what Joseph Smith said about Mesoamerica).
(9)  Columbus was directed to "the promised land," yet he never visited North America.

For more information click here and browse through the articles in section 11 "The Heartland Model."


Eric said...

But you're forgetting: absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Anonymous said...

You're also forgetting about Zelph, the Lamanite warrior whom Joseph Smith said was from the Book of Mormon times--right in Midwest. Of the US.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a panel of the leading informed advocates of both models meet and debate. Does anyone know of a place we can read or hear both sides make their points?

larryco_ said...

I've always felt that there is more than just geographical concerns to be looked at when trying to figure out BOM lands. The prophecies all throughout the BOM speak of the land they are inhabiting as a choice land. Several of them are very specific and can only apply to the U.S., not mesoamerican countries.

C T said...

Hmm, Arabian Peninsula vs. Mesoamerica. If I were Lehi and crew, I'd certainly consider central America a choice land--fertile soil, lots of water, abundant wildlife, etc. If you're referring to political situations, then the prophecies also apply: there are no kings now in central America. Certainly, central America suffers from corrupt politicians and crime and resulting poverty, but no physical terrain is going to be free from those if society rewards corruption and crime.

zerabp said...


When you consider the only difference between the U.S. gov and the central American governments, is that they are openly corrupt, it proves the point further.

Steven said...

I recently came across the Malay Peninsula theory, at first I didn't take it seriously, but after looking into it a little more it seems promising to me. Is there a place with a list of reasons that this model may not qualify, like this list does for the Heartland model?

If not, I'd be interested if you could create a separate list for the Malay model too. Or do you think this model is a viable candidate like the Mesoamerica model?

Steven said...

...sorry forgot to subscribe to follow-up comments

Gordon Manville said...

Another theory has now appeared being promoted by former Seventy and Temple President Lynn Rosenval. He makes a case for Baja California.

Gordon Manville said...

Another theory has now appeared being promoted by former Seventy and Temple President Lynn Rosenval. He makes a case for Baja California.

Gordon Manville said...

The website for Baja California is www.achoiceland.com.He has been putting on firesides in Southern Alberta

Jeff Lindsay said...

Written language. Ancient civilizations. River Sidon flowing the right direction. Volcanic activity. These are among the many issues that need to be present in the right time frame for any Book of Mormon geography to be taken seriously. Look to Mesoamerica, folks.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff. I happen to be visiting in Wisconsin and thought of you so I checked your blog. I hope you reconsider these objections. Your premises are mistaken, for these reasons (which deserve far more explanation that I can do right now):
1. The Book of Mormon does not say the river Sidon runs south to north. The Church even eliminated that comment from the recent revision of the scriptures.
2. There are many strips of wilderness in the heartland.
3. Copper, gold and silver were traded throughout North America.
4. Lots of cement buildings if you consider how they Indians used a cement-like plaster with their wooden structures. And don't forget, Joseph Smith said the stone box holding the plates used cement.
5. Usually people object because the Adena and Hopewell overlapped for 250 years, so I'm surprised you object that they didn't.
6. The written language in Mesoamerica has nothing to do with reformed Egyptian, Hebrew, or the characters Harris took to Anton. And the BoM explains that only the elite used written language, so we wouldn't expect it to be widespread.
7. DNA is even more problematic in MesoAmerica.
8. Joseph Smith clearly described crossing the plains of the Nephites. The D&C designates the area across from Nauvoo as Zarahemla. Lots more on this.
9. Anyone who thinks Central America is the promised land hadn't lived or even visited there. It matches none of the BoM descriptions. Columbus mainly visited Cuba and Haiti. Who considers these the promised land? He never visited Mexico or Guatemala, the most commonly suggested locations in the Mesoamerican model, so how is that different from his never having visited North America?
10. You mentioned volcanoes (not mentioned in the Book of Mormon) but the events in 3 Ne can be explained by a major earthquake, such as the New Madrid fault (and we have a historical record of the one in 1812). There was a vast, sophisticated civilization in the heartland during BoM time frame that left ruins that perfectly fit the descriptions from the BoM.
In sum, the Mesoamerican theory is disintegrating the more we learn, while the opposite is happening in the American Heartland.

vanish said...

Hi Jeff,

The assumption in #1 doesn't hold true anymore since the definition has been changed:



Anonymous said...

Why does Sidon have to run south to north anyway? Alma 22:29 says, "the Nephites had taken possession of all the northern parts of the land bordering on the wilderness, at the head of the river Sidon, from the east to the west, round about on the wilderness side; on the north, even until they came to the land which they called Bountiful."

That seems to say that the head of the river is in or next to the northern part of the land. As far as I can tell, head means source, so if the rest of the river is south of the head, it runs north to south.

Jeff L. said...

Basics in why Sidon flows north are at http://bookofmormonresources.blogspot.com/2011/11/river-sidon-south-to-north.html. Also see http://www.bmaf.org/node/297 and more detail at http://mimobile.byu.edu/?m=5&table=jbms&vol=1&num=1&id=622

David Richards said...

Eh? Most of those points on that first link establish a general north/south orientation, not the direction of flow. Only the latter two points really cover that. Admittedly the post beforehand might have misunderstood Alma 22:29 on the issue (as I read it, it suggests the head is in the wilderness between the Nephites and Lamanites, just like Alma 43:22 and 56:25 as cited in the article). But it's hardly overwhelming, just like those bullet points (as someone mentions above, the Columbus point would affect the 'heartland' and Mesoamerican theories equally.

I personally think there's some major problems with the 'heartland' theory, and I certainly think some of the work that has been done to try and substantiate it has been lacking. But I also think there's major problems with the Mesoamerican theory as it stands.

Vernon said...

This is cool!

Michael Forsyth said...

Jeff, I discovered your blog 13 years ago while in college and appreciated your insight on so many topics. Thank you for your dedicated commitment to helping me discover truth.

In recent years I've found my head and my heart resonating with the Heartland Model (after my initial reaction being, "That is absolutely preposterous!")and was curious to look you up to get your take.

I was disappointed. I would've hoped you'd have displayed a more open mind to at least consider a different view, and recognize that even the strongest mesoamerican model "could be mistaken." Why not propose the strengths of both, instead of taking such quick opposition?

I have found that those having the hardest time accepting evidence for the Heartland Model are those that have too much to lose if they're wrong, they're in too deep and too far committed to espousing the mesoamerican theory. Of course they must defend years of open support for one idea and many I see are too prideful to again, "admit they could be mistaken."

Jeff - be the FIRST to say just that, and give this the merit it deserves. I'm not saying accept it blindly, but at least open your self to consider its plausibility.

With such a flowering of truth in other areas of the gospel at this time, it would make sense that God is providing greater clarity on the topic of Book of Mormon lands.

Most sincerely,

zacharyhill said...

Sorry to the supporters of the Heartland theory, but the Sidon did flow northward. That discounts the Mississippi. Also, try wearing loin cloths in an Iowa winter.

JaredMithrandir said...

As a Non Mormon looking at this debate form the outside, the Mesoamerican model would be the worst spiritually We know the most about those cultures and none were as Monotheistic as the Nephites are supposed to have been. So if only that fits the geography, Mormons have a big problem.