[Skip this section if you don't want to read about the reference to the Mothers of Invention.
[When I was growing up, the Mothers of Invention was my choice of rock band for teenage rebellion. I was reminded of this recently on a Delta flight. The music list included "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" from the "Absolutely Free" album. The Mothers' records are so awful that my mom actually broke my vinyl album in half so I would stop listening to it. Maybe some day we'll be able to do the same with the Mesoamerican theory that has caused so much trouble.
[The album I thought was the most clever was "We're Only in it for the Money," a parody of Sgt. Pepper's. I have heard this complaint from both sides of the Book of Mormon geography issue; i.e., I've heard that Mesoamerican advocates promote their theory with books, tours and conferences, while "Heartlanders" do the same. In my view, neither side is in this for the money. Advocates on both sides are promoting their beliefs because they love the Book of Mormon and want to share its message with the world (and encourage LDS people to study it more). That said, there are costs involved with any educational pursuit. I have spent far, far more money on Mesoamerican books and conferences than on North American books and conferences, and certainly LDS people in general have done the same. Mormon's Codex alone costs $59.99 at Deseret Book. Along these lines, I have to say, I hope I never again hear a BYU-affiliated (i.e., tithe-payer subsidized) scholar/educator complain about other people selling books and tours. It's bad enough that tithing money has been used in the past to support the Mesoamerican theory.]
One of my favorite objections to the North American setting is the old meme that "The River Sidon flows north."
The mother of invention of the north-flowing river was Orson Pratt's hemispheric model, not a careful analysis of the text. Joseph Smith specifically rejected Pratt's ideas in the Wentworth letter, but that hasn't stopped anyone from promoting the progeny of Pratt's ideas anyway.
Here's my conclusion for those who don't want to wade through the explanation:
The notion that there is a north-flowing river from the land of Nephi to the land of Zarahemla is correct, but it’s not the Sidon River. Translated into the modern world, the Sidon is the Mississippi, and the river flowing from the land of Zarahemla up in elevation and south to the land of Nephi is the Tennessee River.
Orson Pratt's north-flowing river originated with his hemispheric model (discussed below).
Here's how the idea of a Mesoamerican north-flowing river Sidon started. In the 1920s, some RLDS and LDS scholars convinced themselves that the Book of Mormon took place in a limited area of Central America. This meant the "real" Cumorah could not be in New York, which led to the bizarre "two Cumorahs" theory.
This theory also presented the problem that the only two significant rivers in the area of Mesoamerica flow north. Therefore, these scholars concluded, the river Sidon must flow north. To justify their theory, they imposed an interpretation on the text that has become their default standard. It's an example of the "ruling theory" that I mentioned in my last post.
If you went to the link I provided in that post, you saw this explanation of the result of the "ruling theory" approach:
"Our premature explanation can become a tentative theory and then a ruling theory, and our research becomes focused on proving that ruling theory. The result is a blindness to evidence that disproves the ruling theory or supports an alternate explanation. Only if the original tentative hypothesis was by chance correct does our research lead to any meaningful contribution to knowledge."
You find this happening throughout the writings of the LDS scholars and educators who promote the Mesoamerican setting.
The latest example is Book of Mormon Central (BOMC) (https://bookofmormoncentral.org/), which is merely a front for Mesoamerican advocacy groups. It started as a front for "ancientamericafoundation.org," a long-time promoter of the Mesoamerican dogma, but BMAF is now a front for Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc. (http://bmaf.org/), which is essentially a club for Mesoamerican advocates. ("The legal organization behind Book of Mormon Central is the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit public charity chartered in the state of Utah in 1983.") See my post about BMAF from last year:
You can have all kinds of fun going through the BOMC archives learning about Sidon flowing north. (Mostly, you'll read about the comical debates about whether the Usumacinta or the Grijalva is the "real Sidon.") That's why I call BOMC Book of Mormon Central America (BOMCA). (I stopped calling it that for a while because they promised me they'd be neutral, but instead, they've doubled down on the Mesoamerican stuff, so there's no reason not to refer to them as Book of Mormon Central America. In fact, referring to them as Book of Mormon Central, as if they were neutral, would be more misleading. I'm not sure why BOMCA even pretends to be neutral, since their legal organization has an official goal to "increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient Mesoamerican codex.")
Another of my favorites is BYU Studies. This mostly excellent journal is, sadly, deeply infected with Mesomania. Right on the main page, they have a link to "Book of Mormon Charts," here: https://byustudies.byu.edu/book-of-mormon-charts. This includes a list of "Ten Essential Features of Book of Mormon Geography." You have to see this to believe it.
Go to this link: https://byustudies.byu.edu/charts/13-149-ten-essential-features-book-mormon-geography. Most of these "essential features" are illusory and based on circular reasoning and confirmation bias (i.e., designed to "prove" the false Mesoamerican theory), but look at number 5.
"5. The river Sidon flowed northward through Zarahemla."
The maps and explanations included in the "Book of Mormon Charts" depend on this assumption. Actually, all the Mesoamerican theories depend on this assumption.
But it's an assumption that doesn't make sense when we read the text carefully.
Here's an excerpt from my book Moroni's America that addresses this specific issue.