long ago ideas

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago." - Friedrich Nietzsche. Long ago, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery conquered false claims that the Book of Mormon was fiction or that it came through a stone in a hat. But these old claims have resurfaced in recent years. To conquer them again, we have to return to what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The maps of Moroni's travels

Recently I was asked again about the maps of Moroni's travels that circulate among some M2Cers (those who believe in the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory that claims Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery misled everyone about the New York Cumorah/Ramah).

I don't remember blogging about these maps before, but because they seem to continue to surface from time to time, I'll take this opportunity.

This version was in a blog by Kelly Smith titled "Why The Heartland Model Of The Book Of Mormon Is Incorrect."


(click to enlarge)

I don't know Kelly and so far as I know, I've never met him. I don't remember seeing his blog before, but maybe I did and forgot. I'll assume he's an awesome guy, a faithful Latter-day Saint, smart, sincere, etc. And I'm fine with him believing whatever he wants to believe.

I focus on substance and reject ad hominem arguments, so Kelly as an individual is not part of this discussion. 

Let's look at his assertions. Kelly's original in blue, my comments in red.

CAUTION: this is a long post, but I wanted something people could refer to whenever these maps are used to promote M2C. I'll include this in my upcoming book on modern LDS apologetics.

At the end, I have a section responding to some of Kelly's his straw man and ad hominem arguments 


I even have many close friends that believe in the Heartland Model and they are unwilling to accept something else. 

This is an increasingly common experience for M2Cers because more and more Latter-day Saints are learning what Joseph and Oliver taught about the New York Cumorah/Ramah. Most informed Latter-day Saints reject the M2C claim that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about Cumorah/Ramah in New York. 

As for being "unwilling to accept something else," that looks like projection on Kelly's part. 

As we'll see in Kelly's next sentence, because M2C has been the prevailing theory of geography, Heartlanders by definition have shown a willingness "to accept something else" because they changed their minds about the M2C theory they had been taught. IOW, Heartlanders are necessarily open-minded. Various Heartlanders have a variety of specific views that they are all happy to consider (multiple working hypotheses). 

Heartlanders agree basically on one point: they agree that Joseph and Oliver, along with their contemporaries and successors in Church leadership, did not misled the world about the New York Cumorah/Ramah. That's where they differ from M2Cers. Beyond the location of Cumorah/Ramah, Heartlanders have a variety of views.

Some even claimed that for years they followed the Meso American model but have now “completely changed their minds because of the teachings of Rod Meldrum and others.” 

Here, we see Kelly's pejorative framing, which is typical of the M2Cers. Not a single person has ever changed his/her mind because of Rod Meldrum's "teachings." They change their mind because of the evidence Rod and others present, consisting of the teachings of the prophets, the text of the Book of Mormon, and extrinsic evidence from archaeology, anthropology, geography, geology, etc.

In the process, they have completely ignored and denied the geographical evidence in the Book of Mormon. This is not safe because NONE of their references work whatsoever. 

Unlike M2Cers, Heartlanders have carefully considered the M2C evidence, having been repeatedly taught M2C by LDS scholars, CES teachers, etc. Far from ignoring the evidence for M2C, they have specifically explained why they don't buy it. 

The basic premise of M2C is that Joseph and Oliver misled everyone about the New York Cumorah/Ramah because they were ignorant speculators. Then, supposedly, Joseph learned about the setting from the illustrated travel book by Stephens and Catherwood. 

But the "geographical evidence in the Book of Mormon" is vague and susceptible to a variety of interpretations. That's why there are so many different theories. That's also why those who believe in prophets should start by accepting what they taught instead of starting by rejecting what they've taught. 

And the prophets have consistently taught that (i) Cumorah/Ramah is in New York, but (ii) we don't know the locations of the other sites. Which makes sense, because there are so many possibilities, and so many have long since vanished.


They [Heartlanders] are ignoring clear apparent facts and swallowing gigantic falsehoods for some unknown reason.

Everyone can see that the primary facts that unite Heartlanders are the teachings of the prophets about the New York Cumorah/Ramah. Kelly, like other M2Cers, characterize these teachings as "gigantic falsehoods." 

The reason Heartlanders "swallow" the teachings of the prophets is because Joseph and Oliver were the First and Second Elders of the Church, the President and Assistant President of the Church, the recipients of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods and the temple blessings in the Kirtland temple, and two most responsible for the Book of Mormon: Joseph as translator and Oliver as scribe. 

Here is how Joseph Smith explained their experience after baptism. When you read this, keep in mind that Kelly and other M2Cers insist they know more about the Book of Mormon than Joseph and Oliver did.

73 Immediately on our coming up out of the water after we had been baptized, we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father. No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery, than the Holy Ghost fell upon him, and he stood up and prophesied many things which should shortly come to pass. And again, so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the spirit of prophecy, when, standing up, I prophesied concerning the rise of this Church, and many other things connected with the Church, and this generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and rejoiced in the God of our salvation.

74 Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the scriptures laid open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mysterious passages revealed unto us in a manner which we never could attain to previously, nor ever before had thought of. 

(Joseph Smith—History 1:73–74)

I am going to give two reasons why I believe the Book of Mormon events took place entirely in Central America....

Let’s talk about the first one first. Two hand-drawn maps were drawn by Joseph Smith regarding the travels of Moroni, and I have included a copy of one of them below. 

These undated maps were not drawn by Joseph Smith. Anyone can check the Joseph Smith Papers and see for themselves. Kelly is either misinformed or deliberately misleading his readers. 

It clearly shows places that he traveled including the sandhills in the south part of Arizona, the city of Manti (that is actually on the other map that isn’t shown), Independence and Jackson County Missouri, the Hill Cumorah, and the land Bountiful in Central America. It shows that he went to these places more than once and this would’ve taken many years.

True, everyone can look at the map and see this is what it shows. 

Because of a recent move, all my books are stored away, and I don’t have access to which one this was taken from, but these were published by John Lund in the early 80s from BYU.

John Lund is a separate topic. 

This one fact alone should eliminate the Heartland model from further discussion. These maps are held in the archives of the church and are extremely valuable regarding this discussion. They are verified to be in Joseph Smith’s own handwriting but like many other things, they are ignored by the Heartlanders or claimed as fakes.

Again, Kelly repeats his false claim that Joseph Smith handwrote these maps, naturally without providing a citation. Far from "ignoring" these maps or claiming they are fakes, we can easily explain the origin and purpose of the maps.

Basically, the undated maps were created in the 1880s, based on then-prevailing theories. Wm. McBride gave a sermon on similar topics in 1881. We also need to remember that in the 1880s, the official edition of the Book of Mormon included Orson Pratt's footnotes (first published in 1879). These footnotes affirmed unequivocally that Cumorah was in New York, but also speculated that Lehi landed in Chile, that the land of Nephi "is supposed to have been in or near Ecuador, South America," and "The land of Zarahemla is supposed to have been north of the head waters of the river Magdalena, its northern boundary being a few days' journey south of the Isthmus." You can see this in p. 156 here:


The maps include anachronisms such as Utah and Arizona (although that word had been used in the 18th century by Spanish writers, it was little known during Joseph's day). The reference to the Kinderhook plates is problematic and reflects then-prevailing views, as are the misspellings. It seems that McBride and Hamilton were trying to make sense of what they thought Joseph taught in the 1842 Times and Seasons, that modern M2Cers still rely upon, as well as what Orson Pratt put in the footnotes, and the variety of other speculations floating around at the time. 

The provenance also distances them from Joseph. This is what was written on the back of one of the maps: “A chart, and description of Moroni’s travels through this country. Got it from Br. Robert Dickson. He got it from Patriarch Wm. McBride at Richfield in the Sevier and also from Andrew M. Hamilton of same place. And they got it from Joseph Smith the Prophet.”

Based on that paragraph alone, people who cite these maps to support M2C extrapolate this claim: "These men stated that the Prophet Joseph believed Bountiful is in Central America while the Hill Cumorah, the burial place of the plates, is in New York State." 

The other thing to consider is the Zelph account. Joseph said (in a far better substantiated account than these maps) that Zelph, or Onandagus, was known from the Rocky Mountains to the East Sea or Cumorah. Modern non-LDS archaeologists have verified that the Hopewell Indians traded throughout this range during Book of Mormon time frames, mainly on the rivers. So even if the undocumented legends about Moroni dedicating temples in Utah are valid, it is far more plausible that he did so along these trade routes.

It's very strange to me that people cite these dubious maps but then reject Letter VII, which Oliver wrote as Assistant President of the Church with the help of Joseph Smith, and which Joseph explicitly endorsed multiple times, reiterated by Joseph's contemporaries, and taught in General Conference by members of the First Presidency.

Instead, Kelly prefers these bizarre maps and claims they were handwritten by Joseph Smith.

As I say, people can believe whatever they want, but when they are making arguments for and against a proposition, they should at least keep their facts straight.

So let’s talk about the second reason why I believe in the Central American model. Now this story will not prove anything to anyone, but it is worth considering even though it’s a personal story from me.

In the Fall of 1982, I took a Bible and Book of Mormon archaeology class taught by Dr. Webber at BYU. It was a fascinating class. The only textbook we had to follow for the Book of Mormon was one written by Grant Palmer which was not a perfect book, but it was the only one available. As most of you know Grant Palmer eventually was excommunicated from the church for reasons that I am unaware of.

Here, Kelly confuses Grant Palmer with David Palmer, who wrote the book In Search of Cumorah. I'm surprised Kelly hasn't corrected this. No doubt David's friends and family don't appreciate him making this inexcusable misidentification.

As far as I know, this was the first published attempt at describing the Central American model and giving proposed names of cities and existing locations and comparing them to possible Book of Mormon citations. 

Like most M2Cers, Kelly is unaware with RLDS scholar L.E. Hills, who published the first map of the Central American (M2C) model with Cumorah in southern Mexico and other sites located in the area. That was in 1918. All the ensuing M2C scholars' work is derivative of the work of L.E. Hills, but they rarely acknowledge that. To his credit, John Sorenson did recognize L.E. Hills as the first to locate Cumorah in southern Mexico, but Sorenson's followers don't seem to have picked up on that, as Kelly demonstrates here. 

Since that time there have been many other ones with far better scholarship including John Sorensen and others. With the new revelation this year from National Geographic doing a LIDAR laser scan of the country of Guatemala and revealing incredibly large cities hidden in the jungles all of these years, there is a lot of information that is yet to come forth.

LIDAR is awesome, but the more it reveals, the less Central America fits the narrative of the Book of Mormon. M2Cers are constantly revising their interpretation of the text to fit their chosen setting. According to them, a "tower" in the text means a massive pyramid, horses are tapirs, a massive, sophisticated network of nation-states is somehow consistent with Lehi's promise that "it is wisdom that this land should be kept as yet from the knowledge of other nations; for behold, many nations would overrun the land, that there would be no place for an inheritance," (2 Nephi 1:8), etc.

Dr. Webber then told a story about a man who was in his class the year before I was in it. I will call him Juan, but I do not know his real name. He was from Mexico and had joined the church recently and did not know many of the details regarding the Book of Mormon. When Dr. Webber started talking about Mormon and Moroni hiding up plates in a cave, Juan entirely lit up and got very excited. He stood up in the middle of class and loudly spoke to everyone saying, “I’ve been there! I’ve seen that cave!”...

[after describing the event, Kelly makes this observation] Now obviously, this story does not prove much of anything and it could be said that it may be a completely different cave than the one Joseph and Oliver went into to return the plates, but I doubt it. That would just be far too coincidental to think there are TWO caves containing gold plates!

Notice the irony of "two caves." M2Cers readily acknowledge that the hill in New York that contained the gold plates in Moroni's stone box was called Cumorah by early Latter-day Saints. They just say it was a false narrative because the "real" Cumorah/Ramah is in Mexico. That's why they say there are "two Cumorahs." 

They ignore not only Oliver's Letter VII, but Orson Pratt's explicit explanation that there were two departments in Cumorah; one for the stone box with the abridged plates, and one for the repository of Nephite records. They reject what Brigham Young and others said about Joseph and Oliver returning the plates to the hill in New York by claiming he and others were merely relating a vision of a hill in Mexico. 

And instead of accepting what Joseph, Oliver, Brigham and others have taught, Kelly tells us to reject all of that in favor of an anecdotal account from a BYU class from 40 years ago.

As we always say, Kelly can believe whatever he wants, but he owes us at least clarity about how and why he rejects the teachings of the prophets on this topic.

[after discussing his classroom experience and evidence of Hebrews in North America, Kelly continues.]

They have nothing to do with the people, places, and events of the Book of Mormon. Yes, they may be Hebrews but they are entirely different groups, and it is wrong to try to force them into some model by stretching beyond credulity the geographies contained in the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon. 

The "internal evidence" Kelly cites for M2C consists of nothing more than a set of assumptions that rely, loosely, on the text. We can all see that nothing in the text refers to America or the Western Hemisphere, yet Kelly assumes the events took place in the Western Hemisphere. Why? Because the prophets have said so. Yet the prophets have also said Cumorah/Ramah is in New York, and Kelly outright rejects that (even despite his 1880s maps).

Everything that occurred in the Book of Mormon in the New World (after they arrived here) must fit in an area approximately 175 miles wide and 350 miles long or tall. (One author claims that it may be a bit larger at 250×500, still far smaller than any Heartland model).

Pure assumption and speculation. The text never refers to miles.

Anything outside of those dimensions does not work. 

M2C requires these dimensions, so necessarily, anything outside of those dimensions doesn't work for M2C. But the dimensions are not in the text; they are purely speculative assumptions.

It also must be:

  • A land of volcanoes (there are none anywhere near New York)
More relevant, there are no volcanoes mentioned in the text of the Book of Mormon.
  • A land where the major river runs south to north (not north-to-south like the Mississippi)
Again, this is purely an M2C interpretation, not described in the text.
  • The Hill Cumorah must be near the East Sea (the one on New York is way too far away)
Unless the East Sea is Lake Erie...
  • It must be a place where the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans are relatively close together
Purely an M2C interpretation, as neither ocean is named in the text.
  • It must be a land where Gold, Silver, Copper and other materials are mined (No, they didn’t mine them all so that’s why they can’t find them. The only mine that possibly fits is a Copper mine in Minnesota, but there are no Gold or Silver mines in the East)
The first gold rush in the USA was in eastern Tennessee, which has massive (and ancient) gold and silver mines.
  • And it must be in a tropical climate, etc.
Purely an M2C interpretation.

In other words, the only model that most closely reflects these points is Central America. 

I assume everyone can see the obvious logical fallacy, but let's spell it out anyway:

Everyone accepts this tautology; i.e., if you define the text to fit a Central American model, then the points that result from the definitions will most closely reflect Central America. But that's true of every model.

Now since we have a map drawn by Joseph Smith himself showing the approximate locations of where Moroni traveled, there is no need to spend any time or money following those who would want to sell you videos and books of other models to make money. They are not faith promoting. It is a blatant denial of facts and evidence we have. 

I have to wonder, would it make any difference to Kelly and other M2Cers to know that Joseph Smith did not draw his maps? Probably not. 

Would it make any difference to Kelly and other M2Cers that the "other models" are freely available on websites and YouTube? Probably  not.

Would Kelly and other M2Cers find it ironic that he deems it "faith promoting" to reject and repudiate the teachings of the prophets, while it is "not faith promoting" to support and corroborate the teachings of the prophets? Probably  not.

Again, M2Cers, Heartlanders, and everyone else can believe whatever they want. 

We think it's better if they make informed decisions instead of relying upon, and propagating, false claims such as Kelly's claim that Joseph Smith hand-wrote these maps.


You can read the rest of Kelly's blog. I don't have time to go through it, but it's more of the same.

I do need to respond to some of his straw man and ad hominem arguments, though.

Here’s one of the main principles by which you can know that someone is trying to deceive you regarding these things: how much money are they making from it? People like Wayne Mae, Rod Meldrum, and Jonathan Neville are all doing their best to promote the Heartland model when in reality all they are defending is a profitable source of income.

I can't speak for anyone else, but Kelly should tell me how much money I'm "making" from what I've written about Heartland topics. He could even estimate it if he wants. Or, even better, he could just ask me if I've "made" more money than I've invested.

He could see that this very blog, and all the others, are entirely free to readers, as are the YouTube videos and other social media.

Instead, he has made a sinister allegation without even recognizing that the M2Cers he follows, such as John Sorenson whom he cites, made a living teaching at BYU. IOW, Latter-day Saints around the world support the M2Cers with their tithing money. 

Aside from BYU, Book of Mormon Central (Scripture Central) has a multi-million dollar budget with dozens of employees and contract workers, all of whom are making a living off of M2C, SITH, and other theories. Maybe he has also condemned all of them, as well as scholars generally, for being paid for their work. If so, he hasn't explained that.

Someone even told me today that what these people are doing is causing, “giant conferences of over 7000 people in attendance and therefore it should be proof that that is true what they are doing.”

Anonymous claims are always the most fun.

I told her flat out: there are many people who have left the church because of the teachings of Julie Rowe, Jake Hilton, Denver Snuffer, and several others. We should be extremely wary of these types of events drawing these people away from the need to read the Book of Mormon and drink from its depths instead of worrying about geography. It proves NOTHING other than people are easily deceived by bold claims and pretended spiritual motives.

I'm responding to Kelly's blog post largely because he has lumped me in with these characters, with whom I have no affinity. 

Furthermore, Kelly seems obvious to the adverse impact of M2C. Anti-Mormon critics have long pointed out the way the LDS M2C scholars are repudiating Joseph and Oliver about Cumorah. They make the obvious rational point that if LDS scholars themselves reject Joseph and Oliver as ignorant speculators who misled the Church, why should anyone trust what Joseph and Oliver said about anything?

Just remember, Satan has great power. His greatest tool is deception. I have talked with people who have had friends that had “energy healings” done by these people and they said it took them months to recover from the damage that was done.

This is not something to be trifled with. That is why I am so adamant about this, I do not want to see anyone jumping ship and leaving the church. Never allow deception of any kind into your life. Never get even 1 degree off course. 

In this very post, Kelly has deceive his readers about Joseph's authorship of the maps, he's conflated David Palmer with Grant Palmer, and he's portrayed me (and other faithful members of the Church) as apostates. That all looks like more than 1 degree off course.

Oh, there's more.

While the following is written by an anonymous person that goes by the name of Peter Pan, he has done a marvelous job of dissecting Jonathan Neville’s proposals regarding the Heartland model. Sadly, I believe that Jonathan is on the same path as Jake Hilton where he is developing a following but eventually will not be able to support it and thus will find himself fighting against that which he once proposed. I pray that that does not happen.


The "anonymous person" by now is well known as Mike Parker (or so he claims, although some think it was a more collaborative effort). I've never met Mike. I've offered to meet over lunch, but he refused (like all of my critics). I'm sure he's a great guy, sincere, wonderful in every respect. But because I reject ad hominem arguments, his personal life is irrelevant to the discussion.

And for the same reasons, I haven't read his blog, apart from a couple of entries that people sent to me that were so ludicrous I didn't think anyone would take them seriously. 

Yet here we have Kelly, who, without knowing me, publicly claims I'm an apostate who is "developing a following," all because of what Mike Parker has written in his explicitly ad hominem blog.

And let's not forget, Mike Parker's Peter Pan is one of, if not the biggest, fraud perpetrated in modern LDS apologetics, as has been well documented on YouTube. The Interpreter even promoted the fraud by identifying Mike Parker and Peter Pan as separate authors.

Let anyone fall for the tactics of Mike, Kelly, and the other like-minded M2C promoters, in real life I've been actively engaged in the Church for decades. I'm currently in the second year of my service mission with Pathway, I'm serving in another Bishopric, and I fully support the Brethren and the programs of the Church. Everything I write is intended to contribute to building Zion, strengthening the Saints, sharing the Gospel, and making the world a better place.

Some scholars get angry when I focus on clarity, charity and understanding, which leads their followers (such as Kelly) to do likewise.

But it's all very simple.

Here are my principles: 

- Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery taught the truth about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon, they were clear, concise, and consistent, and their claims are corroborated by external evidence.

- Some modern scholars have rationalized a way to reject what Joseph and Oliver taught about the origin and setting of the Book of Mormon, but no one is obligated to accept the teachings of scholars or their followers.

- People can believe whatever they want. I encourage everyone to make informed decisions for themselves, without deferring to scholars, intellectuals, or experts of any sort to make their decisions for them.

You won't find a similar set of principles from any of the M2C or SITH scholars.

And if you do, please let me know. I'd love to know about it!



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