The presentations were good, and I really like the people in BMAF, so I'm glad the group is merging with Book of Mormon Central (although I'm not sure what that really means--I just hope it doesn't mean even more Mesoamericanism at BOMC.)
NOTE: For those new to the blog who don't know where I'm coming from, I'm serious about the people at BMAF--I really like them and think they do good work. In my opinion their premise is flawed because it's based on a mistake in Church history, but it's difficult for people to change their minds, so I'm offering my perspectives on some of their publications in this blog. I think they all realize I'm just having a little fun with the articles on their site, in a good natured way, as I seek to encourage them to take another look at the Book of Mormon text, at Oliver's Letter VII, and at the archaeology, geology, anthropology, etc. in North America.
I'm doing a more serious analysis over at http://bookofmormonconsensus.blogspot.com/. Here I just want to point out that the conference was much more about Mesoamerica than the Book of Mormon, as we would expect from their mission statement (which focuses on finding Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon, not searching all the evidence for the actual setting for the Book of Mormon).
I'll miss BMAF as an organization, though. For one thing, it's fun to have a group so dedicated to a specific geographic theory that they 1) disregard contrary evidence (including what Joseph, Oliver and David said about the subject) and 2) offer their own translation of the text (tapirs, mountainous terrain, volcanoes, north doesn't mean north, etc.). To be fair, they don't all agree on these various translations, but BMAF refuses to publish anything that doesn't support the Mesoamerican setting (or that criticizes that setting). This means there are no BMAF-approved geographies that stick with Joseph's translation.
Fortunately, we still have the Interpreter and the Maxwell Institute and the old FARMS publications to have fun with. But actually, BMAF isn't really going away; I understand that BMAF is going to put all their material on the BOMC web page, where it can be enjoyed for years to come.
One other point. There were some fun criticisms of the "Heartland" model. One question asked how the Heartlanders can explain 3 Nephi when there aren't any volcanoes in the Midwestern U.S. I wanted to submit this question: "What verses in the text mention volcanoes?" I might have done it, too, except I suspect everyone other than hardcore Mesoamerican seers has the same question, and the answer is, none. Not a single verse in the text mentions volcanoes.
CES and BYU people keep reading "volcano" in the text, but you have to be specially trained in the (should I say ministry?) to see it there. Even apart from the absence of the term in the text's detailed accounts of the supposedly volcanic eruptions in 3 Nephi, does anyone seriously believe that people living in Mesoamerica for 1,000 years would never once mention volcanoes? (Some might say this is the mirror image of the "snow" argument against North America. I'll do a separate post on that.)
I posted on volcanoes recently, but to reiterate, here's why the Mesoamerican seers insist on volcanoes. The only way to explain the 3 Nephi destruction in a Mesoamerican setting is if there were volcanic eruptions. The only way to explain why Samuel the Lamanite and Mormon didn't simply write "volcanoes erupted" is... well, I have no idea. If they lived their whole lives in Mesoamerican, one would think the Book of Mormon authors would know the term for a big mountain that periodically erupts and kills people and destroys property. But it's not in the text, so the Mesoamerican seers supply the term that Samuel or Mormon (or Joseph Smith) overlooked, and then establish that as a requirement in the text, so they can say the North American setting doesn't work because there are no volcanoes there.
I realize how crazy that sounds, but that's their argument, and it came up several times during the BMAF conference.
More fun, one group had a poster and handouts about the spread of ancient maize labeled "Maize Map answer to Heart Lander Hoax (Ancient America Foundation)." To their credit, when I pointed out that "Hoax" wasn't exactly a collaborative (or even humorous) term, they whited it out (although you can still see the word under the white out). Of course, the poster had nothing to do with Book of Mormon geography, unless you want to believe Nephites lived in Buenos Aires, Lima, and El Paso, Texas. I know some of the people at AAF, and I like them, too. I chalk up this poster/handout to ignorance about the proposed North American setting for the Book of Mormon.
IOW, they need to read this blog.