Doug is right.
And I say, Mission Accomplished.
I started this blog largely in response to a list of absolutes that I found on the BMAF web site, of which Doug was the President at the time. You can still find it here. [It is a list, supposedly by John Sorenson, of 37 reasons "Why Book of Mormon Geography Could Not Have Included North America." Here is the first item on the list: "1. The “promised land” occupied by the Nephites was characterized for many centuries as an area of “civilization.” As indicated by archaeology and related studies, no place in North America in the period of Book of Mormon history contained any cultures at the level of 'civilization.'"] And here is my first substantive entry on this blog that briefly addresses the list.
Just yesterday, at the FAIRMORMON conference, I heard example of an absolute declared by a Mesoamericanist. At the end of his otherwise excellent presentation, Brant Gardner answered a question about Cumorah. He said New York doesn't work because there is no archaeology at that location. That's an absolute--and it's incorrect.
So I completely agree with Doug Christensen--but his own web page doesn't take his advice. Nor does Gardner, whose book Doug has endorsed and encouraged others to read.
What I have hoped to accomplish all along is to generate a dialog among everyone who is interested in the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Now that Mesoamericanists have complained about my absolute statements, I hope they will re-evaluate theirs. I'm ready to sit down with anyone, any time, any place, to discuss these issues. Like Doug says: "There are very few absolutes."
Now, for the record, I freely concede that there is abundant evidence in Mesoamerica that fits many of the descriptions in the Book of Mormon text. After all, as I've explained, I took a class from John Sorenson in the 1970s and I was a Mesoamericanist for decades. I've visited sites throughout Central and South America (as well as Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Peru, Cambodia, etc.). I've read the FARMS/BMAF/Maxwell Institute materials and I can make the Mesoamerican argument as well as anyone.
But then I looked beyond the absolutes those groups publish (such as Sorenson's list on the BMAF web page) and discovered that there is also abundant evidence in North America that fits many of the descriptions in the Book of Mormon text.
In my opinion, anyone who looks beyond the absolutes for either Mesoamerica or North America will reach the same conclusion: there is abundant evidence in both locations. If anyone disagrees, let's discuss the the evidence.
Once I realized that the Mesoamericanist position on North America was based on inaccurate absolutes, I saw that a case for both settings can be made, based on archaeology, anthropology, and geography.
In effect, the two theories were tied in terms of historicity*. So what is next?
[continued in next post]
* (Well, not really tied; Mesoamerica satisfies only two or three out of a dozen requirements, while in my opinion North America satisfies all of them. But I didn't reach this conclusion until I looked at all aspects of the issue; the point here is that both proposed settings do have merit, and both sides should acknowledge that.)