My objective during M2C Education Week is to promote what Elder Quentin Cook taught: "We can be an oasis of unity and celebrate diversity. Unity and diversity are not opposites. We can achieve greater unity as we foster an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for diversity."
Our M2C scholars and their followers oppose diversity and inclusion. They insist on conformity with their own theories and they utilize their positions of power and influence to erect barriers and exclude faithful Latter-day Saints who seek to corroborate the teachings of the prophets.
By contrast, so-called "Heartlanders" accept everyone. They not only celebrate and respect diversity, they encourage people to make their own informed decisions. We're confident of our decisions so we are happy to consider others' views without being defensive of our own.
I hope that by educating people about M2C, we can break down the walls and create an "oasis of unity" for everyone who loves the Book of Mormon and wants to share it with the world. We're fine with people believing whatever they want. We just oppose the tyranny of M2C groupthink and hope that someday our M2C scholars will demonstrate tolerance and respect for diversity of thought.
BTW, I realize these posts are long. They're part of my upcoming book on LDS apologetics.
This week we've discussed origins of M2C and the rationales used by M2C believers for rejecting the teachings of the prophets about Cumorah.
Today we'll discuss three lingering issues:
1. Psychology of affinity and investment.
2. Red herring stereotypes (nationalism, "anti-science").
3. Archaeological evidence.
People often ask, why do LDS scholars refuse to allow side-by-side comparisons of M2C with NYC scenarios?
[M2C = Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs, NYC = New York Cumorah]
It's such an important question that we will conclude this year's M2C Education Week by looking at the question from several perspectives.
While it's true that BYU Studies recently published a comparison article of sorts, the thumb was on the M2C scale, as I discussed before. BYU Studies still features the M2C maps as the only acceptable explanation of the Book of Mormon.
Only lazy learners are satisfied with one side of the issue. Engaged learners want more details and explanations from both sides. They want to make informed decisions.
M2C is an enormous problem because many Latter-day Saints who learn they've been misled or lied to reject the Restoration as a result. There is no justification for the M2C scholars to continue their current approach, but basic psychology tells us they are unable to change. That's why educating the Latter-day Saints by giving them "good information" is the only way to enable them to make informed decisions that leads to stronger commitments to the Restoration.
"Good information" corroborates the teachings of the prophets.
M2C is unlike other academic fields. Normally, we think of scholarship as a pursuit of truth that welcomes critiques, seeks all relevant evidence, and encourages new ideas and interpretations. While everyone has pre-conceived ideas, the pursuit of truth welcomes information and alternatives because "good inspiration is based upon good information" and because "information brings inspiration."
Truth seekers accumulate facts and derive/propose multiple working hypotheses to explain the facts and predict outcomes. Informed people assess the alternatives, select the best, and proceed from there.
While M2C may have originated from this process, today's M2C advocates not only don't share all the information, they don't tolerate alternative working hypotheses.
Consequently, we can see that M2C is not a legitimate academic pursuit. It's just an exercise in groupthink that is unusually insular because of the unique fiduciary positions its advocates have enjoyed, mainly through their positions at BYU, compounded by affinity bias and other problems.
1. Psychology of affinity and investment.
We've seen from Brother Sorenson's Sourcebook that the development and promulgation of M2C started over 100 years ago when RLDS scholar L.E. Hills and his 1917 map that depicted the hill Cumorah in southern Mexico. (It's awesome that the simulation served up a man with the last name of "Hills" to produce the "two hills Cumorah" theory.)
M2C has competed with NYC (NY Cumorah) ever since. In the last 20-30 years, M2C has become more widely accepted, primarily due to the influence of three friends, shown below in a photo from 1984 during a tour of Mesoamerica.
|(click to enlarge)|
These are all great guys, faithful Latter-day Saints, well educated, smart, prolific, energetic, etc.
Put yourself in their places. At an early age, they convinced themselves that Mesoamerica was the setting for the Book of Mormon. Then they found all kinds of "correspondences" to confirm their biases, and they went along with the idea that the prophets never really taught the New York Cumorah in the first place, or if they did, they were merely speculating. We saw how Brother Sorenson's Sourcebook did all of this, as you can see here: http://www.lettervii.com/p/sorensons-sourcebook-annotated.html
In their enthusiasm, these scholars reinterpreted the text of the Book of Mormon, rationalized away the problems they couldn't redefine away, and created a citation cartel of like-minded people who reassured one another and provided an illusory "peer-review" process to present their work as legitimate scholarship. This generated a deep level of affinity bias.
Over the decades, they have taught and trained thousands of faithful Latter-day Saints, expanding the scope of their affinity throughout the Church. Lately, they have raised millions of dollars to fund Book of Mormon Central to further promote M2C around the world.
After promoting M2C so heavily and widely for 40 years, we can understand why they would be psychologically and emotionally attached to M2C. Facts and rational analysis are secondary, if indeed they are relevant at all any more.
This is also evident in the writings of employees and followers of the M2C scholars. Some are so deeply attached to M2C that they think anyone who disagrees with M2C is an apostate.
Psychology Today explains how affinity bias works.
"Studies in neuropsychology have demonstrated that the neural pathways we use when we think about people in our “in-group” — those friends and family members closest to us — are the same pathways that light up when we think about ourselves. This means that we are biochemically disposed to show more empathy toward these people. On the other hand, we use a completely different pathway when we think of people outside our group, and as a result, are more indifferent to their triumphs and troubles.
"The problem is that creativity does not dwell in the familiar and we need creative solutions for the common problems we all face... collaboration with like minds is usually less fruitful than assembling a broad variety of viewpoints. Odds are that the members of your “tribe” think and problem-solve in much the same way you do. However, things get interesting when we try to try to bridge that gap between “us” and “them” to look at our challenges and creative endeavors in a new light."
Affinity bias prevents the M2C scholars from embracing Brother Sorenson's own observation that "If we are to progress in this task, we must chop away and burn the conceptual underbrush that has afflicted the effort in the past."
I don't think there's a solution for affinity bias.
As an unconscious bias, M2C is too firmly entrenched in the minds of the M2C scholars. Psychologically, as one has admitted, the members of the M2C citation cartel "cannot unsee" Mesoamerica. One of them has written, “Stop looking for the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica and start looking for Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon!”
Back in 1984, when the photo above was taken, I was all-in on M2C as well. I didn't know any better because I trusted these M2C scholars and their collaborators to give us all the best and most complete information. I read all the FARMS publications, attended conferences, etc.
Less than a decade ago I came to realize I'd been misled. The M2C scholars hid important facts that, once I found out about them, changed my mind about M2C.
Many Latter-day Saints who feel they've been misled or lied to by the M2C scholars reject the Restoration as a result.
I didn't, primarily because it was easy to see that our M2C scholars were acting in good faith to promote what they had convinced themselves was true. While they like to imply that Church leaders endorse M2C, in reality no Church leader has ever publicly done so.
Thus, I was free as an "engaged learner" to study all of this for myself and make informed decisions. That's how I arrived where I am today.
But compared with the M2C scholars, it was easy for me to change my mind in response to better and more complete information. I had no deep investment in M2C. Having seen both sides of the issue, it's easier for me now to understand why people think the way they do.
All that said, people can believe whatever they want. I've met lots of people who think they have "done their research" and have embraced M2C. In nearly every case, however, such people do not know what the prophets have taught because they've relied on the M2C citation cartel for their information.
I'm fine with people making informed decisions different from my own. It's healthy to have multiple working hypotheses. I encourage people to read a variety of sources, consider different ideas, etc. That's what "engaged learning" is all about. If a fully informed person chooses to believe M2C, that's great. No problem at all.
However, affinity bias prevails over engaged learning. It erects barriers and prevents the creation of an "oasis of unity."
2. Red herring stereotypes (nationalism, "anti-science").
Another aspect of affinity bias is negative stereotypes.
One article explained that "Biased attributions can perpetuate negative stereotypes. When an outgroup member behaves in accordance with a negative stereotype, we attribute that behaviour to the stereotypical characteristic they share with their group members, but we attribute positive behaviour to external causes. This preserves the integrity of negative stereotypes. The tendency for biased attributions is more pronounced in individuals who are prejudiced, and where there is a history of intergroup conflict or strong negative stereotypes."
Some of the prominent M2C activists justify their exclusion of alternative faithful hypotheses on the grounds that those who still believe the teachings of the prophets are "nationalists" and "anti-science."
This has been a consistent theme among M2C intellectuals. A recent example is a new book by Michael Ash, a prominent M2C activist and participant in the M2C citation cartel. Here is his background, from FAIRLDS:
Michael R. Ash is a veteran staff member of the FAIR, former weekly columnist for the Mormon Times, and current columnist for Meridian Magazine. He has presented at six of the past fourteen FAIR Conferences and has written more than 200 articles defending the faith. He has been published in the FARMS Review, Sunstone, Dialogue, and the Ensign, and appears in the FAIR DVDs on the Book of Abraham as well as one addressing DNA and the Book of Mormon.
Michael is the author of Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One’s Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt and his second book, Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith. Michael and his wife Christine live in Ogden and are the parents of three daughters and the grandparents of six.
Michael Ash recently published a book titled Rethinking Revelation and the Human Element in Scripture: The Prophet's Role as Creative Co-Author. He expressed his bias against faithful Latter-day Saints who still believe the teachings of the prophets.
Notice the pejorative spin he applies when he says he is "vexed" "by the number of Latter-day Saints who swallow uniquely United States of America Book of Mormon geographies."
Brother Ash is not alone in perpetuating these stereotypes. Many of my critics attribute to me the same "American elitism" and anti-science stereotypes. We'll use Brother Ash as a proxy for all the M2C advocates who share his biases.
I have been told directly that these stereotypes are the principal reason why the M2C citation cartel rejects the New York Cumorah and doesn't allow any discussion of these ideas in their publications, conferences, etc.
Obviously, such stereotypes are the antithesis of an "oasis of unity." We see these stereotypes repeated in M2C literature, M2C conferences, and in various discussions with M2C advocates.
Let's discuss them directly. After all, stereotypes don't materialize out of nowhere. But they are often the product of exaggeration and overgeneralization, as they are here.
And let's be clear. Brother Ash is criticizing the Heartland umbrella of working hypotheses that center on the New York Cumorah, as opposed to his own M2C hypothesis.
Nationalism. Brother Ash refers to "an American elitism that is not implied in the Book of Mormon itself."
"Elitism" is a fascinating word choice. One definition directly describes the M2C credentialed class, including Brother Ash himself, who look down on the uncredentialed class. "The belief that certain persons or members of certain groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their superiority, as in intelligence, social standing, or wealth."
We'll discuss "elitism" below, but first we recognize that Brother Ash makes a good point: no modern geography is "implied" in the Book of Mormon itself.
Everyone who reads the Book of Mormon knows it never uses the term "America" or even "western hemisphere." These modern-world connections were originally taught by Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Every other teaching about America or the western hemisphere derives from what they taught, which they learned directly from Moroni, who told Joseph the record "gave a history of the aborigenes of this country" and was "written and deposited not far from" his home in Palmyra.
(Ash and other M2C advocates implicitly acknowledge this or they wouldn't be focusing on Mesoamerica, but they seem willfully oblivious to the reality that these same prophets also taught that Cumorah was in New York. In fact, it is the New York Cumorah and related teachings that led to the identification of America and the western hemisphere.)
Consequently, it is not the Book of Mormon, per se, that implies or teaches anything about America, but the teachings of the prophets, including revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.
For example, in 1832, W.W. Phelps published an editorial that included this passage:
THE book of Mormon declares that the land which is now called America, is a choice land above all others, and we believe it, because the Lord has said it, and we have seen it. At present, the world thinks much of America because it is trying the experiment of a free government; and the people of the Lord are beginning to lift up their heads and rejoice, because Jesus the Redeemer is setting up his kingdom upon this choice land above all others, and it is no more to be confounded.
(Evening and Morning Star I.7:54 ¶19)
In the October 2001 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley taught "Recently, in company with a few national religious leaders, I was invited to the White House to meet with the president. In talking to us he was frank and straightforward. That same evening he spoke to the Congress and the nation in unmistakable language concerning the resolve of America...
Great are the promises concerning this land of America. We are told unequivocally that it “is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12). The Constitution under which we live, and which has not only blessed us but has become a model for other constitutions, is our God-inspired national safeguard ensuring freedom and liberty, justice and equality before the law.
(2001, October, Hinckley, "The Times in Which We Live.")
Similar teachings are so numerous anyone can find them.
Perhaps Brother Ash opposes these teachings with as much energy as he opposes the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt that what he opposes is not the identification of America as the "choice land" but the "elitism" that he believes is part of the Heartland umbrella.
The Heartland umbrella covers several variations but they are all based on the premise that Cumorah is in New York. The best-known proponents are Wayne May and Rod Meldrum, who have been working on these issues for decades.
I know both of them pretty well, but I won't speak on their behalf, other than to say I'm confident they would reject Brother Ash's stereotype.
Brother Ash lives in Ogden, Utah. Most of the M2C proponents share a Utah-centric worldview, including the handful who don't actually live in Utah (but who frequent the state).
Outside of Utah, and outside the U.S., Latter-day Saints are far less attached to M2C--except maybe in Mesoamerica, where Book of Mormon Central is aggressively marketing M2C.
I've met Latter-day Saints in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia who reject M2C in favor of the Heartland. Such members hardly accept Ash's "American elitism." But they do recognize the obvious reality that the United States has stood for and defended liberty around the world.
Brother Ash not only criticizes "American elitism" but he is "vexed" "by the number of Latter-day Saints who swallow uniquely United States of America Book of Mormon geographies."
His rhetoric drips with contempt. The same contempt permeates the M2C citation cartel generally, as anyone familiar with my own critics can see.
We can't read minds, but maybe Brother Ash seeks to counterbalance his own stereotype; i.e., he may actually believe that "Heartlanders" unthinkingly and ignorantly "swallow" a North American setting because of their devotion to "American elitism," so he feels compelled to denigrate those faithful Latter-day Saints to "counterbalance" their unacceptable beliefs.
To be sure, there may be Heartlanders who do believe in American elitism, in the sense that they think Americans have some sort of superiority over other nationalities. The Heartland tent is large enough to accommodate a range of beliefs. Unlike the M2C cartel, Heartlanders accept everyone and encourage people to make their own informed decisions.
But there is nothing inherent in Heartland ideas that involves "American elitism." We all recognize that while America--the United States of America--was once the gathering place for the Latter-day Saints and the promised land for Lehi, today prophets teach that the gathering place and promised land for the Latter-day Saints is the entire world.
Today, Madagascar and Vietnam are just as much part of establishing Zion as is the United States of America.
We have to conclude that the "elitism" stereotype is a mere pretext for rejecting the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah.
But what about the "swallow" element that so vexes Brother Ash and other M2C believers?
3. Archaeological evidence.
Brother Ash seems to think that faithful Latter-day Saints who are also Heartlanders merely "swallow" the North American setting. He asserts that they rely on "fraudulent artifacts" and "pseudoscientific genetic paradigms."
There is some basis for this stereotype because there have been some instances of these things in the past (just as there has been with M2C). But it's an important part of the truth-seeking process to evaluate all the evidence. Only those with confirmation bias reject evidence for ideological reasons.
One of the reasons I came to question, and ultimately reject, M2C was because I approach these issues from a scientific perspective. Besides my law degree, I have a degree in economics and a Masters in agribusiness, essentially an MBA with an emphasis on agriculture, and I've taught environmental science for many years. Lawyers deal with facts and rational arguments, which expose fables and falsehoods. M2C relies on a combination of factual and logical fallacies that are easy to detect once one steps outside the M2C bubble.
Brother Ash makes a generalized statement (a stereotype, basically), so it's impossible to address his specific complaints. Here I'll explain why, in my experience, Heartlanders are far more evidence-based than M2C advocates.
Even if the prophets had never identified the hill in New York as Cumorah, the extrinsic evidence and the text itself points to New York as the most plausible location for Cumorah.
To begin with, Moroni put the plates into the hill in New York. He used cement to construct the box, so the only known example of Nephite cement is in New York. He told Joseph that the record was the history of the aborigines of "this country" and that it had been "written and deposited" not far from Joseph's home. That makes far more sense than the theory that he made a 3,000-mile journey, hauling the plates and other artifacts from Mesoamerica to New York, without even mentioning such a journey.
[One of the most ironic M2C arguments against the New York Cumorah is that Moroni didn't say he buried the plates in Cumorah (as if he could write where he buried the plates after he buried them), but that it is perfectly reasonable to believe Moroni would make this 3,000-mile journey without mentioning it.]
Consequently, as a matter of fact, logic, and common experience, the presence of the long-deposited plates on the hill in New York leads to the assumption that Moroni resided in the area.
As to "fraudulent artifacts," there are abundant authentic artifacts, including weapons of war, that date to Book of Mormon times in western New York. Before the Europeans arrived, rudimentary hilltop defensive positions were common, just as we would expect from armies in retreat as described in the text. There are numerous Hopewell sites, dating to Book of Mormon times, in western New York. Even in 1832, Heber C. Kimball visited the hill and noticed the embankment around it.
The Hopewell culture from Iowa to New York dates to Book of Mormon times and corroborates the account in the text. The literature on the Hopewell is publicly available, and museums throughout the area are full of artifacts, including head plates, breastplates, etc. Wayne May and Rod Meldrum have accumulated some of this evidence in their books and videos that anyone can see for themselves. No one has to "swallow" any Heartland ideas because the evidence is abundant and easily accessible.
Obviously, comparing the evidence to the text is the main objective. The text does not interpret itself; language is imprecise, and we're dealing with Joseph's English translation, not the original Nephite text. The English text is susceptible to a wide range of interpretations, which is why people can read into it any geography they want.
Textual interpretation is inherently subjective. There is no right/wrong dichotomy, except from an ideological perspective. If you believe M2C, M2C interpretations are right, while non-M2C interpretations are wrong. But that's a psychological problem, not "truth" in any sense.
The words in the text are facts. They exist. An objective, realistic approach is to recognize those facts along with a variety of interpretations, which I call multiple working hypotheses.
Thus, when we compare the fluid text with the abundant evidence, we can justify pretty much any of the geography theories we want, whether M2C, Heartland, Baja, Panama, Malaysia, etc.
But because the only known location of a Nephite that is universally accepted is Moroni's presence in New York when he deposited the abridged plates, the only rational approach is to start there and work backwards.
Add to that what Moroni told Joseph Smith about Cumorah, and what Joseph and Oliver told us about Cumorah, and we have the ideal combination of "study and faith" that establishes the New York Cumorah.
Again, no one has to "swallow" anything. Good information corroborates the teachings of the prophets, and the more we learn, the more the prophets are vindicated.
Brother Ash also complains about the DNA evidence discussed by Heartlanders. It's easy to see why. M2C advocates are highly defensive about DNA because there is zero DNA connection between Mesoamerica and the Middle East. They resort to claiming there shouldn't be any such connection, which is what we would expect from cognitive dissonance.
Heartlanders don't suffer from such deep cognitive dissonance.
Presumably Brother Ash is referring to the X2 haplogroup, which everyone can see is concentrated in two areas in the world.
By Maulucioni - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10448085
Haplogroup X is also one of the five haplogroups found in the indigenous peoples of the Americas. (namely, X2a subclade).
Although it occurs only at a frequency of about 3% for the total current indigenous population of the Americas, it is a bigger haplogroup in northern North America, where among the Algonquian peoples it comprises up to 25% of mtDNA types. It is also present in lesser percentages to the west and south of this area—among the Sioux (15%), the Nuu-chah-nulth (11%–13%), the Navajo (7%), and the Yakama (5%)
The Algonquian peoples are the ones identified in the D&C (28, 30, 32) as Lamanites. When he first visited Joseph Smith, Moroni "gave a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham."
Obviously, Joseph Smith did not know about DNA and could not have possibly made the connection we see with the X haplogroup.
That said, the DNA issue is more complicated than the diagram shows because of dating.
Scientists claim that
no presence of mt-DNA ancestral to X2a has been found in Europe or the Near East. New World lineages X2a and X2g are not derived form the Old World lineages X2b, X2c, X2d, X2e, and X2f, indicating an early origin of the New World lineages "likely at the very beginning of their expansion and spread from the Near East". A 2008 study came to the conclusion that the presence of haplogroup X in the Americas does not support migration from Solutrean-period Europe. The lineage of haplogroup X in the Americas is not derived from a European subclade, but rather represent an independent subclade, labelled X2a. The X2a subclade has not been found in Eurasia, and has most likely arisen within the early Paleo-Indian population, at roughly 13,000 years ago. A basal variant of X2a was found in the Kennewick Man fossil (ca. 9,000 years ago).[24
As a scientist myself, I'm aware of the problem of forming opinions about topics for which I have little education or practical experience. The Gospel Topics Essay on DNA, written primarily by LDS scholar Ugo Perego, reviews this subject extensively and accepts the ideas that I bolded above. The Essay accepts Darwinian evolution and the idea that humans evolved over 250,000 years ago. To the extent that is now Church doctrine is unclear, but as with all the Gospel Topics Essays, I see them as musings by scholars, not as prophetic pronouncements or binding doctrine.
I'm fine with people believing Darwinian evolution if they want. I'm fine with people believing Adam was created 6,000 years ago. There are pros and cons of all sides of these issues, and I can't say from personal experience which is correct. People of all beliefs feel a spiritual connection with those beliefs as well. What someone else believes doesn't affect me anyway. I don't think there's a legitimate litmus test on any of this.
I'm interested in the pursuit of truth, not adherence to an ideology.
When I've looked into the DNA issue, the main problem that stands out is the dating. Careful, honest scientists write things such as "most likely" and "roughly," as we see above. I don't have time here to discuss the dating issues in detail, but accepting the prevailing scientific understanding is a matter of faith and probability, not fact.
On one hand, we have the scientists telling us what the DNA shows.
On the other hand, we have the Book of Mormon describing three migrations to the New World: the Jaredites, the Lehites, and the Mulekites. We have Moroni saying the record gives "a history of the aborigenes of this country, and said they were literal descendants of Abraham." We have Joseph Smith in 1842 saying
We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.
Here's how I interpret what he wrote.
We are informed by these records that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people.
"America" means the U.S. circa 1842. He's not referring to the west coast or Latin America. He also doesn't say that America was inhabited by only two races of people. For example, he doesn't mention the Mulekites.
The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel.
Assuming the Jaredites crossed Asia and the Pacific, this explains the Asian DNA throughout Latin America. The Jaredites brought unspecified friends who were not included in the first census, presumably because they had migrated away from Jared and his brother. When Moroni abridged Ether's record, he specified he was writing about people "in this north country," thereby excluding everything south of the New York area. Ether himself was writing only about his own family history over 33+ generations. He didn't mention what happened to Jared's friends, and he barely mentions what happened with descendants of the brother of Jared.
The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ.
He doesn't mention the Mulekites here, who, as the people of Zarahemla, were more numerous than the Nephites who escaped with Mosiah. The Mulekites presumably sailed with Phoenicians who would have had the X haplogroup as shown in the diagram above.
They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph.
This is a revision of what Orson Pratt had written in his 1840 pamphlet. The statement implies there were non-Israelites among Lehi's group. Because he's referring to Lehi leaving Jerusalem, he doesn't claim anything about the Mulekites. Possibly Mulek was the only one of Israelite descent who came with that group.
The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country.
As Nibley pointed out, "destroyed" doesn't mean annihilated. It merely means their civilization disintegrated. Coriantumr wasn't even the sole survivor of the battle at Cumorah. Ether lived to tell the tale, and there's no reason to assume Ether had no family. Lots of Jaredite names appear in the text after the Nephites joined the people of Zarahemla, suggesting an ongoing Jaredite influence, in terms of culture, language, and genetics.
The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century.
"Principal nation" means the Nephites led by Mormon, and "principle" means the nation most mentioned in the text. It doesn't mean the most numerous, most geographically extensive, etc.
The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country.
"Remnant" could refer to the remnant of the Nephites, the remnant of the Nephites/Lamanites, or the remnant of all the people mentioned in the text, including the Jaredites. It doesn't matter much, because they were all mixed in Book of Mormon times and would still be mixed by 1842. What matters is the way this statement contradicts and corrects Orson Pratt's speculation about Central America.
I see all of this being consistent with the DNA evidence--except for the timing.
IOW, as I understand the text and Joseph's explanation, the Jaredite migration involved Asians crossing the Pacific and spreading throughout the western hemisphere, with Ether's ancestors inhabiting the area around the Great Lakes and New York. The Lehite migration involved principally Israelites. The Mulekite migration involved mainly non-Israelite Phoenicians.
This means we would expect to find Asian DNA throughout the western hemisphere with some Phoenician and Israelite DNA in relatively confined areas of the Midwestern and eastern North America.
That's pretty much exactly what the DNA shows. Again, except the timing is off.
The basic principle that underlies prevailing scientific theories of dating is uniformitarianism, which is "the assumption that the same natural laws and processes that operate in our present-day scientific observations have always operated in the universe in the past and apply everywhere in the universe."
I have no way to assess the validity of uniformitarianism, but I recognize it's not "truth" in any objective, ultimate sense. It's a working hypothesis. But so is the working hypothesis that the Book of Mormon is an accurate history, that the prophets relate truth, etc.
It doesn't seem rational to me to reject what the prophets have taught, even if uniformitarianism seems "more likely" in some sense, because what the prophets have taught resonates with my own experience and observations. For example, it seems highly unlikely that Joseph Smith could have known that there was a genetic connection between the Indians in the New York area and ancient people living in the Middle East.
We all know that early European settlers assumed the Indians were Hebrews. Ethan Smith's book, among others, discussed that. Some thought they migrated through Asia to North America. Some thought they came by ship. But most, including Orson Pratt, assumed all the inhabitants of the western hemisphere had the same origins. Only Joseph Smith, so far as I know, distinguished between the Indians "of this country" and the rest of the inhabitants of the western hemisphere.
And now the DNA evidence corroborates what Joseph taught.
Except for the dating.
Which relies on the assumption of uniformitarianism.
Consequently, contrary to Brother Ash's objection, the DNA evidence does not disprove what Joseph taught. It does effectively disprove claims about Latin America, however. (I am happy to ascribe claims about Lamanites in Latin America to post-Book of Mormon migrations, but that's a hypothetical rationalization, not supported by DNA evidence.)
The issue, as usual, gets back to prophets vs scholars.
M2C advocates such as Brother Ash apply inconsistent evidentiary standards to justify M2C regarding both historical and scientific evidence. I prefer consistent evidentiary standards, and I think it's cool that the extrinsic evidence corroborates the prophetic teachings.
And I'm find with everyone making their own decisions.
I remain hopeful that our faithful LDS scholars will come to trust the Latter-day Saints to make up their own minds by making informed decisions based on all the evidence. We don't need M2C curators to tell us what to think.
Finally, regarding archaeological evidence, we have to ask what we should be looking for. Recently an article about Timna in Israel pointed out how even advanced civilizations can become "archaeologically invisible."
Timna is a fascinating site in southern Israel. Some years ago my wife and I explored the ancient mines and artifacts there. We met an Israeli couple and when they heard we were from Utah, we discussed the comparisons between Israel and Utah: deserts, Salt Lake/Dead Sea, both fed by the Jordan River, etc. Then, because we were at Timna, they said there was one big difference. Utah doesn't have any big copper mines.
Obviously, the didn't know about the Kennecott mine. We explained and we all had a good laugh.
This article points out that the sophisticated civilization that operated the mines at Timna after the Egyptians left was "archaeologically invisible" except for artifacts recently uncovered in the mines.
In my view, the Nephites were in a similar situation. Aside from the "heaps of earth" and "places of resort" that we can see today, there's no reason to believe they must have left a specific archaeological record. The text never mentions building with stone (except one wall) and we can all see they were often moving about.
The discussion of Timna includes observations that apply directly to analysis of the Book of Mormon people as well.
But Ben-Yosef wondered why nomads 3,000 years ago would necessarily have been the same as modern Bedouin. There were other models for nomadic societies, such as the Mongols, who were organized and disciplined enough to conquer much of the known world. Perhaps the Edomites, Ben-Yosef speculated, simply moved around with the seasons, preferring tents to permanent homes and rendering themselves “archaeologically invisible.” Invisible, that is, but for one fluke: Their kingdom happened to be sitting on a copper deposit. If they hadn’t run a mine, leaving traces of debris in the shafts and slag heaps, we’d have no physical evidence that they ever existed.
Their mining operation, in Ben-Yosef’s interpretation, reveals the workings of an advanced society, despite the absence of permanent structures. That’s a significant conclusion in itself, but it becomes even more significant in biblical archaeology, because if that’s true of Edom, it can also be true of the united monarchy of Israel. Biblical skeptics point out that there are no significant structures corresponding to the time in question. But one plausible explanation could be that most Israelites simply lived in tents, because they were a nation of nomads. In fact, that is how the Bible describes them—as a tribal alliance moving out of the desert and into the land of Canaan, settling down only over time. (This is sometimes obscured in Bible translations. In the Book of Kings, for example, after the Israelites celebrated Solomon’s dedication of the Jerusalem Temple, some English versions record that they “went to their homes, joyful and glad.” What the Hebrew actually says is they went to their “tents.”) These Israelites could have been wealthy, organized and semi-nomadic, like the “invisible” Edomites. Finding nothing, in other words, didn’t mean there was nothing. Archaeology was simply not going to be able to find out.