Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The trend

What is the trend in terms of Book of Mormon geography?

Despite decades of promoting the Mesoamerican geography as the "scholarly" consensus, many remaining Mesoamericanists are jumping ship.

That's a step in the right direction.

Fewer and fewer LDS believe the Mesoamerican theory, not only because it doesn't make sense and contradicts the text of the Book of Mormon, but because they are learning the facts of Church history. Another big help is learning more about archaeology and geology and geography.

All steps in the right direction.

Thanks to learning about the American (Heartland) setting, people who were less active for years (and decades) are returning to activity, non-members are taking a new interest, and long-active members are re-energized.

More good steps in the right direction.

Keep up the good work.


  1. What exactly is your evidence for this remarkable claim? Specifically, what is your evidence for the claim that "many remaining Mesoamericanists are jumping ship"?

    1. What evidence are you after? Within the context of the post, I'm sure you can see this is all about excitement for something happening that can be significant for many people. These claims are remarkable, you're right. People changing their views, their way of thinking, and their paradigms of how they thought about the geography, etc...

      My question is thus: what if he were to provide names of the people "jumping ship?" Is that the evidence desired here? Notable scholars, members, non-members, returning members, everyone else who is investigating and thinking differently than they had about this previously-- what if he told all? "So-and-so told me today that he/she is changing her vote for the Book of Mormon geography debate." Where does that leave the people he calls out? Will that help you substantiate these claims?

      I don't think this is really about that. I don't think anyone would want evidence of this kind if they didn't doubt the claim in the first place. It's okay to doubt. This is new thinking for a lot of people, and sometimes it is personal.

    2. So, then, you can't name a single one of the claimed "many remaining Mesoamericanists [who are] are jumping ship"? And therefore we're just supposed to take your word for it?

      Assertions without evidence.

    3. Mike Parker: "So, then, you can't name a single one of the claimed "many remaining Mesoamericanists [who are] are jumping ship"? And therefore we're just supposed to take your word for it?

      Assertions without evidence."

      I'm one. And have several friends who have recently become "Heartlanders."

      Just because Jonathan doesn't answer right away doesn't mean he has at least anecdotal evidence.

  2. I'm also curious about (non-anecdotal) evidence for this claim:

    "Thanks to learning about the American (Heartland) setting, people who were less active for years (and decades) are returning to activity, non-members are taking a new interest, and long-active members are re-energized."

  3. Mike and Steve, thanks for your interest. I like your idea for a post and I'll see if I can get permission from some of the many people who have shared their stories with me. I don't know if you're Mesoamericanists or Heartlanders, to use the current vernacular, but I'm confident if you ask around, you'll find plenty of examples in your own wards and among your own neighbors, wherever you live. Just ask people if they think the last battles of the Nephites and Jaredites were in New York or Mesoamerica. Even people who don't know a lot about Church history are shocked when I explain that to accept Mesoamerica as the setting, they have to reject the New York Cumorah as the scene of the last battles (which means rejecting 2/3 of the Three Witnesses and Joseph Smith's own history). This is really an easy transition for most Church members who once believed in the Mesoamerican theory because of what they were taught in Seminary, Institute, BYU, etc. Realizing that what Joseph and the Three Witnesses said makes sense and fits both the text and the real-world evidence is a refreshing change from the Mesoamericanist insistence that Joseph didn't know much about the Book of Mormon and that Oliver and David Whitmer were speculating, misrembering, and wrong.

  4. Okay, I got permission from one person. Me. I took a class from John Sorenson, reviewed the pre-publication draft of Ancient American Setting, read the FARMS updates from the beginning, read articles and books--pretty much everything published by the Mesoamerican advocates. I visited sites in Central America. For a long time I accepted it. But then I started thinking more about it, especially in the context of Church history, and the Mesoamerican arguments didn't hold up. It seemed to me that they were using semantic gyrations to explain away what Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer explicitly said about the topic. Sure, Orson Pratt had his theories, but he was an outlier on many topics. The 1842 Times and Seasons were explicit, too, but on their face the articles were bizarre, and Mesoamericanists didn't accept the link to Quirigua anyway. When I realized who wrote those articles and why, the rest fell into place. Next, I went through the Book of Mormon text in detail and saw that if fits North America (for Dan Peterson, I mean north of the Rio Grande) much better than Mesoamerica (which, IMO, doesn't fit at all unless you change the text). So count me among the many former Mesoamericanists. In my experience, most people who are exposed to both sides of the argument, fairly presented by advocates of both sides, reject Mesoamerica. I do know several Mesoamericanists who stick to Mesoamerica because, in their opinion, the Church has endorsed that setting, but will change immediately if that ever changes. And I realize that, officially, the Church is neutral on the issue, but it is apparent to anyone who has attended CES classes or looks at lds.org artwork and media that the actual Church position is neutrality about where in Mesoamerica it took place. I think that position is an artifact of a historical mistake and will be changed to actual neutrality, at least, in the near future. But members are free to believe whatever they want, and when presented with all the facts, in my experience they reject Mesoamerica. Just like I have.

  5. Okay, so that's two of the "many." Thanks for anteing up, Steven and Jonathan.

    Numbers supporters don't prove that an idea is right or wrong, but at least you provided some examples.

    I'd also be interested to know how many are bone fide Mesoamericanists-turned-Heartlanders and how many are people who had maybe heard of the Book of Mormon taking place in Central America or something like that, never really studied or cared about it, but adopted Heartlandism once they were exposed to it because YAY AMERICA and so forth.

    1. Mike Parker: "Okay, so that's two of the "many." Thanks for anteing up, Steven and Jonathan."

      Actually, I have at least four friends who have switched from being Mesoamericanists to Heartlanders (or whatever you want to call it) and several more who are interested and want to learn more. And just because the Book of Mormon events took place in North America doesn't mean we are jingoist in any way--I actually support the Ron Paul approach to America's foreign policy (well I've been that way since BEFORE Ron Paul first ran for Congress, back in, I think, the late seventies).

    2. I served a mission in central america and preached Mesoamerica as the Book of Mormon lands. For two years! I was taught that was the place! Try rationalizing TWO Hill Cumorahs to explain Moroni and the battles! We sure tried. I'll tell you though, I had to rationalize away a lot of things I already knew. While on my mission, I remember reading a quote by Marion G Romney that had been in a and old version of an Institute Book of Mormon Manual that was sitting around our apartment. The talk was "America’s Destiny" by Marion G. Romney, October 1975 general conference. I had a hard time with that one too. I couldn't put it together with Mesoamerica!

      As for myself, claiming a significant portion of native american blood (including Shawnee, Delaware, and Seminole), you can bet why I'm all in. I won't go into details here, but let's just say nobody can sway me the other way now.

      I couldn't care less about Heartlandism. I don't know if I've ever heard of it before now. It sounds like a religion involving John Cougar Mellencamp music, the CMT, and those guys from Duck Dynasty. All joking aside, I have more pride for my "Lamanite" family that gave me my black hair. You might even call them "the original heartlanders."

    3. Mike, I'm curious about your comments. If "Numbers supporters don't prove that an idea is right or wrong," then why did you ask? How many testimonials would satisfy your curiosity or persuade you? Are you planning to be the last Mesoamericanist to jump ship?
      What does YAY AMERICA have to do with any of this? Have any of my 120+ posts had anything to do with YAY AMERICA?
      As for bona fide Mesoamericanists, I can articulate the theory for a Mesoamerican setting as well as anyone I know--I did accept it for 20+ years, after all--but that is all the more reason why I have replaced it with a better fit in terms of geography, geology, etc. Having studied both extensively, I think most people who do the same will reach the same conclusion I did. In fact, that has been my experience. I've yet to meet a Mesoamericanist who can fully explain the North American setting and the related Church history; the ones who can reject Mesoamerica. I've yet to hear of a North American advocate (a "Heartlander") abandon that setting for Mesoamerica. I suppose it has happened, but the evidence makes it a one-way street for most people. That North America also is consistent with, and supports, Joseph, Oliver and David is a bonus.

  6. Jonathan,

    I'm not at all interested in getting into a debate over the merits of Heartland BofM geography. I'll simply say that I find it extremely dubious due to its many unfounded assumptions, inconsistencies, leaps of logic, forced readings, and impossible geographical models. But to each his own—I don't care where someone thinks the Book of Mormon takes place, as long as they take the messages of the book itself seriously.

    If numbers of supporters proved an ideology right, then Roman Catholicism would be God's true Church and Mormonism would be a false cult. Likewise, if 99.9% of Latter-day Saints believed that the Book of Mormon's city of Zarahemla was across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo that wouldn't make it true; it would just mean that lots of people believed it. Truth is in the claims, not the census.

    Other than anecdotal examples, you've offered no evidence that the Mesoamerican BofM geography is crumbling in the advance of Heartlandism. If you have any reliable surveys or studies on this, I'd love to see them. I suspect, however, that you're living in an echo chamber. (It's like the well-known quote misattributed to Pauline Kael: "How could Nixon have won reelection? Nobody I know voted for him!")

    My "YAY AMERICA" comment is based on Rod Meldrum's style of selling the Heartland theory with expos full of flag-waving—along with exposing the supposed international banking conspiracy, peddling quack "holistic medicine" and "energy healing," teaching a Mormon form of Young Earth Creationism, and so forth. A tidy profit, all from appealing to nationalism. (Who says priestcraft has gone out of fashion?)

    If there are Heartlanders outside of Meldrum's sphere of influence who reject his P.T. Barnum approach, I'd be interested to know about this.

    1. Your comment is completely irrational. First you asked me to list the people to whom I was referring, and now you say numbers of supporters don't matter. Now you ask for a "reliable survey or studies" on this. I told you how to get a reliable survey: ask around. Do a survey of whatever demographic group you want and ask how many think the Book of Mormon Cumorah is in Mesoamerica. When people realize the Mesoamerican setting requires that Joseph, Oliver and David were speculating and wrong about that topic, very few believe it, despite the indoctrination by CES.

      On top of that, you attribute to me the "YAY AMERICA" thing you complain about, but you haven't cited a single example from my blog. Are you next going to ask me about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton?

      I'm happy to discuss any of the posts on my blog, but if you want to discuss other issues, start your own blog.

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