I think it's great that so many people, in so many places, have figured out ways to make the text meaningful to them. Surely that's one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon; i.e., the Lord wants us to apply the scriptures to ourselves. We can do this by relating to the stories and teachings in the scriptures.
We don't have to live in Israel to understand the parable of the sower because people sow seeds everywhere in the world.
In that sense, the setting for the Book of Mormon doesn't matter. We can learn from the lessons of Ammon and the king's flocks whether we live in Panama, Chile, China, or Nigeria.
As beneficial as that is, however, there is a risk that people might take the Book of Mormon as nothing more than a parable. In fact, many people--including active members of the Church--do consider the Book of Mormon as a work of inspired fiction. A book-length parable, but not authentic history.
The thesis of this blog is that the Book of Mormon is not merely a parable, but it is an actual history of actual ancient people who lived on this planet Earth. This means it took place in a real place.
Among those who accept the actual history concept, there are two schools of thought about geography. Some think there is one point of convergence between the text and the modern world: i.e., the Hill Cumorah in New York.
Others think there are no points of convergence between the text and the modern world; i.e., the Hill Cumorah is not in New York.
The saying goes, the un-examined life is not worth living. The corollary I explore here is, the un-examined geography is not worth believing. Although this blog focuses on Central America, I want to outline the basic parameters we're dealing with.
Among those who agree the Hill Cumorah is in New York, there are variations. Some people think the entire history of the Book of Mormon took place in:
- New York.
- North America (not including Central America).
- North America (including Central America).
- the Western Hemisphere (including North, Central, and South America).
Among those who agree the Hill Cumorah is not in New York, there are variations. Some people think the entire history of the Book of Mormon took place in:
- Baja California.
- Mesoamerica (Central America)
- many others
Proponents of the various views have published books, articles, web pages, blogs, DVDs, PowerPoints, etc. The end result: there are two major theories of geography that seem to have generated the most discussion and analysis. These are:
The Mesoamerican theory
The North American theory (also called the Heartland and Moroni's America).
This blog focuses on Central America because it has become the consensus among some LDS scholars. Although the Church is officially neutral on the question of Book of Mormon geography, Church media, manuals, and instruction have focused primarily on the Mesoamerican theory for decades.
The latest evidence of this is the creation of a web page titled Book of Mormon Central. The people there are fantastic, dedicated and sincere. No problem with them at all. However, the page is a front for the Ancient American Foundation, a long-time promoter of the Mesoamerican theory. The page purports to be neutral, but as I'll show in subsequent posts, it strongly promotes the Mesoamerican theory to the exclusion (and denigration) of others.
Consider this blog to be the other side of the story.
Again, I emphasize this blog is not critical of the Central American or Mesoamerican theory. If people want to believe that theory, I have no problem with it.
To the extent I have a problem, it is with web pages that profess neutrality while pressing their thumbs squarely on the scales for the theory embraced by their management and funding sources.
Related to that, I think people who promote a theory need to be open about all the assumptions behind that theory and its implications, and own those.
So here goes.