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.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why abstract models don't--and can't--work

I've discussed the problem with abstract models before, but I want to call your attention to a thoughtful analysis on another web page. Here's the link: http://www.bofmmodel.org/study/danger-of-false-requirements/

[NOTE: That web page advocates a setting on the Baja peninsula. My comments on that are at the end of this post.]

Despite the Baja proposal, the web page makes an excellent point about abstract maps. The author uses the example of locating Jerusalem by creating an abstract model from the text of the Book of Mormon. We would never find the real Jerusalem that way, as he demonstrates very well. It is well worth reading.

You'd have the same problem if you used the text of the Bible--unless you already knew where Jerusalem was from extrinsic evidence, which is exactly how we know where Jerusalem was.

IOW, Jerusalem is a pin in the map when we read the Bible. We can find other locations by reference to Jerusalem. That's why, in my opinion, the Lord gave us the New York Cumorah as a pin in the map for Book of Mormon geography questions.


The importance of Letter VII and the New York Cumorah becomes apparent as you continue reading the analysis of abstract maps:

Perhaps the biggest mistake that we commonly make when searching for the lands of the Book of Mormon is that we try to decide what the verses mean. As soon as we “decide” what it means, we close our mind to reasonable alternatives.
Inventing false internal requirements is actually a very natural thing for us to do. For example, as I developed this model of the Book of Mormon in Baja, finding an appropriate location for Cumorah was troubling. It was the most puzzling single geographical reference in the whole text for me to try to model. That’s not to say that I think that I’ve identified every other reference perfectly, there is plenty of room for error on a great many of the model’s locations, but that just means means is that there is often more than one location that seems to be able to fit the vague textual references. Cumorah was different. Nothing seemed to fit Cumorah.
You can read the proposal that Cumorah was a desert hill in Baja and decide for yourself, but the Baja scenario is another in a long list of otherwise viable Book of Mormon settings that reject or ignore Letter VII. I think you could make an argument for just about any place in the world with some imaginative geography work; that's why this whole geography issue has never been resolved. And that's why having a pin in the map is essential, which in turn is why Letter VII is essential.

Now, if they would just take a look at Letter VII and the North American setting...


Comments on Baja. I'm quite sure the Hill Cumorah in New York does not fit in a Baja-based geography. Because I think any proposed geography needs to account for Oliver Cowdery's Letter VII, the Baja concept doesn't work for me. (They propose Cumorah as a hill in the desert, suggesting that the Colorado river satisfies the requirements of a land of many waters, etc.) If you're wondering why I'm citing a web page that argues for a different geography than I do, I look for good arguments and evidence everywhere, and I recommend consideration of every proposed Book of Mormon geography, if only so we all know what everyone else is thinking. Unlike the citation cartel, I trust readers to make up their own minds. In the spirit of the First Amendment, more speech is better than less speech.


  1. I understand your point Jonathan but there are facts about the geography that are clear from the BOM. And if those facts don't line up then you have to reject the model.

    1. Cumorah is NORTH of the narrow neck. I can find the scriptures about this but this should be clear. The Nephites were driven into the far North above the narrow neck where they were destroyed. The North American model does not show Cumorah North of the narrow neck but south and east which simply doesn't fit. The NY Cumorah was not a stratigic place for a battle either. The Nephites could have continued North for a long ways before they had to stand and fight.
    2. The Sea West and Sea East were natural barriers that the Nephites never went around
    3. Hagoth sailed North from the narrow neck
    4. At least 3 million Jaredites lived north of the narrow neck.

    Those are just a few and I've mentioned others. If your model does not show this basic model then it has to be rejected. Your model does not and that is why I keep asking for an explanation. To simply say that things are vague and we don't know doesn't work because the BOM is clear on these points I just mentioned.

    Also, again you are using Oliver's and Joseph's opinion of where the BOM lands are located and not using the scriptural text. This letter is not revelation. Never is FG Williams notes either but at least he said Lehi landed at 30 degrees latitude in Chile. When you examine the South American model it fits in every respect.

    1. Cumorah in South America is located North of the narrow next in Ecuador. The Nephites could not go any farther North from where they were destroyed because of high mountains. The mountain range is called Imbabura at an elevation of 15,033 feet. Why do we know this is it? Because the locals have legends about the area. They have place names surrounding the mountain named Battalion Imabura, Company Imbabura, and Zapallo Loma or sad person hill. The legends also say that tremendous battles happened there. The mountain is volcanic and there are caves in the thing. An extended plateau found at the base which is where the fighting took place. This is Something that the NY does not have. So it fits perfectly with the description.

    2. Hagoth was able to sail North. Any many people sailed from his ship building place never to be heard of again. And they supposed that they were drowned in the depths of the sea. Doesn't sound like Lake Erie to me. There is no place on Lake Erie you can build a ship and sail North for an extended length. Even if it was a hundred miles it wouldn't matter because somebody would have been able to find them at some point. So that doesn't fit the model.

    3. The Sea East And West were natural barriers until the death of Christ. They were not mentioned after. There is no mention that anybody could go around to the west side of the west sea nor east side of the sea east. This alone negates the model. It simply doesn't fit.

    4. Can 3 million people live in Canada in the far North? Where is there evidence of that anywhere up there. The land would not be able to support such a large population. It can in Ecuador near the equator however and that fits perfectly.

    And so that is why it would behoove you and others who believe in this model to tell me why your model simply does not fit the BOM record. I've talked to a number of people about this but never an actual author of it and so I would be nice to hear your explanation. The above explanation doesn't quite cut it for me.

    Thanks Jonathan. Ira

  2. Ira, I don't think any explanation will cut for you. I've read your comments, and man, you're staunch! Read the blog, I bet your questions will get answered. But, just from reading your comments, it doesn't sound like you're mind is open to any kind of discussion except for one that you dictate. Doesn't seem like you're hear to learn. Calling it like I see it. I hope I'm wrong.

    Also, it seems like you're trolling. Just be aware that is a negative thing on interwebs.

  3. RJ I am quite open but nobody here wants to answer not one of my questions. I see great problems with this model. I think they are fatal. I look at the maps and they do not in anyway fit the BOM. None of the details make sense to me. All I'm asking for is for someone to take the time to explain why the maps are not correct.

    I am not trolling. I'm here to find out what you think. The South America model does fit the scriptures much better however. But all I get from everybody here is I'm the closed minded one. Yet you won't tell me why your maps don't work. Go down that list and pick one and tell me why it doesn't fit the record. If you can make it fit the BOM record then just in a few sentences tell me how it fits. Yes I can read the book but if the maps are wrong which they are then the explanation will NOT satisfy me. These questions that I've presented I am sure are not asked in the book. Am I wrong? Take one and explain it please. Thanks, Ira

    1. Hi Ira. As long as you're making assumptions about 1) what the text says and 2) what my proposed model is, there is no way to have a dialog. You're really just debating yourself.

      For example, here you conflate two references to the narrow neck. I can't understand your objections on the map because you're using a map I'm not familiar with.

      Read Letter VII and Moroni's America and then we can have a great discussion.


    2. Jonathan - That sure appears to be the case that I'm just talking to myself. But take a look at your map you have on your blog. It has Zarahemla below the great lakes. That's all well and good. but the problem comes in the scripture in Alma 22 where is says

      27...who were in all the regions round about, which was bordering even to the sea, on the east and on the west, and which was divided from the land of Zarahemla by a narrow strip of wilderness, which ran from the sea east even to the sea west, and round about on the borders of the seashore, and the borders of the wilderness which was on the north by the land of Zarahemla, through the borders of manti, by the head of the river Sidon, running from the east towards the west--and thus were the Lamanites and the Nephites divided.

      28.. and also on the west of the land of Zarahemla, in the borders by the seashore, and on the west in the land of Nephi, in the place of their fathers first inheritance, and thus bordering along by the seashore.

      32 And now, it was only the distance of a day and a half's journey for a Nephite, on the line Bountiful and the land Desolation, from the east to the west sea; and THUS the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by wather, There being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

      Jonathan, I've quoted a bunch of scriptures here. What stands out? Your map shows Zarahemla south of your sea west? Verse 28 states quite clearly that the sea West was West of the land of Zarahemla. The Mulakites founded the city of Zarahemla. It doesn't say it but it is implied that the City is by the sea west which you put to the North. It isn't a sea at all and that is why I'm asking these questions. Why read the book if you can't explain these glaring inaccuracies?

      As for the letters of Joseph and Oliver you've elevated their words to that of revelation. Sorry, but this is their opinion at the time. I know they believed it was in North America firmly but it's clear from the description in the BOM that it was not. That is unless you can give a reasonable explanation of this and other deficiencies. If you elevate Oliver's words to that status why can't I do the same with FG Williams where he wrote that Lehi sailed out of Arabia and landed at 30-degrees Latitude in Chile. That to me is more revelation than letter number 7.

      I make drawings for a living as a geologist. I can sit down and sketch out very easily the BOM geography. When I do that using what Mormon, Jacob, Alma and others have said both your ideas and the Meso-America do not make any sense. The Meso-America is closer to the truth but you need to have a broken compass for it to work. Hagoth could not sail North from MesoAmerica and he certainly would not have built a boat in Lake Erie to sail away never to be heard of again.

      The South American model can answer all these questions and I can defend it very well. I can't defend yours however and so I'm looking for answers which don't seem to be forth coming.

      Easy questions to answer Jonathan. Give it a shot. Thanks, Ira

    3. Hi Ira. One more time. All of this is answered in Moroni's America. If you're interested, read it. If not, stick with South America and your own assumptions and inferences. But I hope you realize by now that what you characterize as "clear" is anything but.

  4. Sounds good Russ, that is good stuff I'm sure. I'll check it out. Ira

  5. Hi, this is Beau, the author of the bofmmodel.org site that you're discussing. Today I Googled to see who on the web might be discussing Baja models and I came across this blog post.

    I just want to thank you for your comments regarding my article about internal models. I appreciate you being willing to consider my arguments on their merits. A lot of authors of Book of Mormon models tend to get so wrapped up trying to prove the superiority of their own models compared to all others that they miss the fact that, despite our differences, there is a lot of research and writing that we are each doing that can find at least a little common ground and can benefit each other.