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.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

L'Amerique de Moroni

About 5 years ago we visited the island nation of Comoros and its capital, Moroni. While there my wife took this photo of me holding a copy of L'Amerique de Moroni, the French translation of my book Moroni's America.

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My phone cover at the time featured the cover of the English edition.

If you (or people you know) have not read Moroni's America, this would be an ideal time because it helps people relate to the setting of the Book of Mormon as we go through Come Follow Me.

If you don't accept a North American setting based on Cumorah in New York, that's fine. In the interest of clarity, charity and understanding (see nomorecontention.com), it's still a good idea for you and all Latter-day Saints to understand why other Latter-day Saints do accept a North American setting.


I wrote a summary of the book several years ago.

Book Summaries - Moroni's America

I wrote Moroni's America for members and nonmembers because I wanted to explain why Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery insisted that Cumorah was in New York.

Anyone who still believes in a non-New York Cumorah, whether in Mesoamerica or Chile or Baja or Malaysia or Eritrea, ought to read Moroni's America, if only to understand why so many members of the Church accept what Joseph and Oliver said about Cumorah.

You might enjoy reading the book because it is the only chapter-by-chapter explanation of the North American setting. (Amazon or Digital Legend).


Once I realized that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons that were the genesis of the Mesoamerican theory (see The Lost City of Zarahemla, 2nd edition), the next step was to analyze the text itself.

People who focus on the text have come up with myriad settings that, in their view, fit the text. We can apply the FAITH model to see how this happens.

We start with the Facts. In this case, the facts are the text itself.

Then we apply our Assumptions. In this case, some people (including me) assume Joseph and Oliver accurately identified Cumorah (Mormon 6:6) in western New York. Others assume they were wrong, which opens the door to any number of alternative locations for Cumorah. 

Then we make Inferences to fill in any gaps, analyze everything pursuant to our Theory, and finally develop a Hypothesis to explain everything.


My wife made a list of around 300 geography-related verses and told me she wanted to know where everything took place. It was an awesome challenge. I started with 1 Nephi 1 and ended with Moroni 10.

I was actually surprised to see how well the Book of Mormon describes North America.

When you consider what Joseph and Oliver actually said and wrote, as well as what their successors have said and written, including in General Conference, and you factor in the prophecies and promises, and the fulfillment of those prophecies, you realize that no matter how you look at the question of Book of Mormon geography, everything points to the North American setting. 

Framework from Moroni's America - pocket edition
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How they arrived in the New World
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The North American setting is commonly known as the Heartland model. I like Moroni's America because the significance is not merely geography, but the prophetic destiny and responsibility of the covenant land of promise, exemplified by General Moroni and clearly delineated by Moroni son of Mormon.

The principal alternative to the North American setting is called the Mesoamerican/two-Cumorahs theory (M2C). M2C proponents readily acknowledge that Joseph, Oliver and their contemporaries and successors identified the hill in New York as Cumorah, but they think all of these people relied on a false tradition because to make M2C work, the "real" Cumorah must be in southern Mexico.

Which is fine. 

People can believe whatever they want. 

When we apply the FAITH model, we see clearly that the fundamental assumption of M2C is that the prophets were wrong, while the fundamental premise of Moroni's America is that the prophets were correct.

This clarity enables Latter-day Saints to make informed decisions.

Which assumption do you make when it comes to Cumorah and the setting of the Book of Mormon?

Regardless of which assumption you make, you owe it to yourself to understand why so many Latter-day Saints still believe what the prophets have taught about the New York Cumorah and how that setting fits in North America.

Note: M2C promoters like to say they are using the text as their primary rationale for locating Book of Mormon events in Central America. The text, they claim, is the highest authority on their hierarchy of evidence.

This is a cognitive fallacy, of course. In the first place, it is not the text itself, but their interpretation of the text, that they deem the highest authority. The text doesn't use any modern terminology to explain its setting (unless you accept what the prophets have taught about Cumorah in New York).

Secondly, everyone interprets the text to confirm their pre-existing bias, aka choice-supportive bias, also called post-purchase rationalization. It is a cognitive bias whereby people retroactively justify choices they've made. Once you decide where you want the Book of Mormon to have taken place, the text is vague enough that you can adapt it to almost any site in the world. You can "see" any culture in the text as well.

The common human tendency toward choice-supportive bias is why I take the approach of starting with what Joseph and Oliver said, and then seeing how the text supports and corroborates what they said. When you do this, Cumorah is in New York and everything else flows from there.

M2C promoters started with that same process. The difference is that they chose the anonymous Times and Seasons articles instead of Letter VII and other statements by Joseph, Oliver, David Whitmer, etc.

They chose to accept what Joseph did not say instead of what he did say

This is why they have come full circle to the point now that to rationalize their choice of Mesoamerica, they outright reject what Joseph and Oliver actually said.

Anyone can follow the history and see that the M2C promoters first decided where the events took place, based on the 1842 Times and Seasons articles, before they even considered the text.

The authors of those articles, some combination of Benjamin Winchester, William Smith, and W.W. Phelps, made their claims based on discoveries of ruins in Central America. They barely analyzed the text, and they didn't care that the ruins themselves were anachronistic in terms of the Book of Mormon. They were focused on promoting the Book of Mormon for missionary work, and if that meant linking it to sensational finds in Central America, then why not?

Their successors, the modern-day M2C promoters, have confirmed their Mesoamerican bias even though they acknowledge that the anonymous articles were incorrect (i.e., Zarahemla is not Quirigua, the ruins don't line up to Book of Mormon time frames, etc.). Some even acknowledge that Joseph Smith had nothing to do with the anonymous articles.

Yet they persist in finding "correspondences" between Central America (Mesoamerica) and the text, all the while repudiating what Joseph and Oliver taught.

Again, we emphasize that people can believe whatever they want.

In the pursuit of clarity, charity and understanding, we encourage everyone to seek first to understand, then to be understood, to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt, and make our own informed decisions based on clarity.

Moroni's America includes lots of details and footnotes. 

Some readers asked for a shorter version, so I wrote a "pocket edition" that summarizes the setting. 

Moroni's America-Pocket edition is available in print and Kindle, here: https://www.amazon.com/Moronis-America-Pocket-Jonathan-Neville/dp/1944200126


For more detail, there is a third-party website that has adapted my material with some variations that you can explore here:


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