Comparing Book of Mormon Geography Models


Issues in the heartland Model

The Book of Mormon heartland model is a model proposed by Rod Meldrum which places the entirety of Book of Mormon narrative in the Eastern United States of America. It really arose as a counter-balance to the problems inherent in the “limited Mesoamerican model”.  (following is taken from a list compiled by Gregory Smith)

–  With the Eastern US heartland model, Nephi’s journey from eastern Arabia to America doesn’t really make sense.
–  Hagoth cannot, as is claimed, navigate from the Great Lakes to the ocean.
–  The Mississippi River makes a poor match with the River Sidon for several reasons.
–  The Sidon should empty into the “seas,” which are the Great Lakes in the Heartland Model.  The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico, far away from these “seas.”
–  The confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers as the “head” of the river Sidon does not work, because this confluence is not in an area identified by the Book of Mormon as a “narrow strip of wilderness.”
–  The Heartland Model has the land Bountiful southeast of Zarahemla; the Book of Mormon has it northward. (A map demonstrating these claims is available here, about a third of the way through.)
–  The Heartland Model elsewhere claims that Bountiful is directly north of the land of Nephi; in the Book of Mormon, Zarahemla is directly north of the land of Nephi.
–  The Heartland Model’s Land of Nephi does not stretch from east to west sea, as it would need to in order to match the Book of Mormon text.
–  The Book of Mormon has the sea west to the west of the Zarahemla and the land of Bountiful, but the Heartland Model has it east of Zarahemla and north of Bountiful.
– The land of first inheritance should be on the west sea, west from the land of Nephi.  The Heartland Model places it south of the land of Nephi, on the Gulf of Mexico that is not even one of the “seas” in his model.
–  Heartland Model uses a city founded by Mormons near Nauvoo (named “Zarahemla) to locate the Nephite city of Zarahemla.  The model ignores that it was settlers who started calling it Zarahemla first, not scripture or Joseph Smith.  The lines about Zarahemla were added later, for historical clarity, by an editor when the revelation was published.
–  Likewise, a city called “Manti” was ascribed to the prophet by later editors, but it was not in the original text.
–  Items in many models: armor, weapons, defensive works, cities, presence of dead bodies, bodies of water.
–  Heartland Model does not match the known archaeology of the Hopewell area that he wishes to make into the Nephites.
–  The Heartland Model’s seasonal and climate claims have problems; some Book of Mormon elements (e.g., extreme heat, rather than snow, in and end-of-the year battle) do not match his proposed geography.
–   The Heartland Model also misunderstands the evidence about population sizes and growth.
–   The Heartland Model misrepresents and misunderstands the issue of stone cities versus wood cities, and burning “stone” cities.

see also this list.

Issues in the Limited Mesoamerican or Mayan-land Models

The majority of Mesoamerican Book of Mormon geography models seek to correlate the Isthmus of Tehuantepec or the Isthmus of Guatemala. They far exceed the heartland models in their ability to synthesize the text with known archaeology. However, all of these models however suffer many of the same substantial problems.
–  They force the Book of Mormon into a small corner of North America, ignoring all inferences in the account which infer continental occupation. They correlate all Book of Mormon lands and peoples with mearly two Mesoamerican people’s, while ignoring the largest and most influential cultures on the continent.
–  They require a “second Cumorah theory”.  Where Moroni wanders over 2000 miles after the final battle somewhere in Vera Cruz Mexico to get to New York to bury the plates.
–  Although Mayan models do a good job at finding cultural correlations, none of them have done a very good job at really matching individuals Book of Mormon cities with archaeological ruins. None of them can match Zerahemla or the city of Nephi with convincing archaeological ruins which match the level of prominence and significance afforded these cities in the text.
–  Teotihuacan, the largest and most influential city and culture in prehistoric North America, is mysteriously absent from the Book of Mormon in these models.
–  They ignore many quotes by Joseph Smith and other early Saints which suggest a hemispheric model covering all the way from South America to New England.
– The story of Haggoth traveling to “the land Northward” from the West Sea, just doesn’t make much sense in these models. If the Land Northward is composed of areas like the Mexican Highland, Valley of Mexico or area of Vera Cruz, then why would Haggoth launch from the West Sea to get there? Only the East Sea would get you closer to these areas
– The Grijalva and Umacinta rivers seem a little to big to match with what the Book of Mormon describes of the River Sidon. The river needs to be small enough for a “numberless army” to easily cross (Alma x:xx), but big enough to carry away thousands of corpses.
– Suggesting rivers that travel northward, makes the idea of throwing thousands of dead bodies in the river (which then would float through the land of Zerahemla) a bit conterintuitive (see Alma x.xx).
– They

Issues in the Mexican Highland Model

-The narrow neck.

Strengths of the Mexican Highland Model

-The match between the Jaredite “Great Dearth” and the Late Pleistocene Megafauna Extinctions is quite strong.

-The “Great City” built by the Narrow Neck of Land, “by the place where the sea divides the land” in Ether 12:20 could be a strong match to the Olmec City of San Lorenzo. Tenochtitlán, La Venta, Tres Zapotes, and Laguna de los Cerros follow shortly after. Building platforms are strangely similar to that of the earliest Adana.


Time Line- Jaredites

± 14,000 BP Early PaleoIndian (earliest North American cultures develop) Jaredites Reach America (scripture account based on convoluted oral traditions?)  unknown*
(@Tower of Babel)
± 10,000-8,000 BC Clovis & Folsom cultures spread out from American Southwest Early Jaredite Culture spreads from the Land of Desolation.  unknown*
± 8,600-8,500 BC Bull Brook Complex and associated early New England sites Omer and his Household flee the cultural core to east of Cumorah  unknown*
± 9,500-6,000 BC Plano & Early Eastern Archaic Pre-Dearth Jaredite Culture  unknown*
~ 9,000 BC End of the Ice Age – Late Pleistocene Extinctions The Great Dearth in days of Heth  unknown*
±Ether 9:30–34, speaks of a climate event (great dearth) which causes the animals which were more especially “useful for the food of man”— such as “elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:19) to flee southward. The people then pursue the animals until they until they “had devoured them all” (v. 34). This scriptural event matches incredibly well with the archaeological evidence for North America megafauna extinctions (caused by climate and over-hunting).
± 1,400 BC Adena culture begins in the Ohio Valley. Lib builds up his empire in the Land Northward. ± 1200-300 BC?
± 1,400 BC Olmec culture begins to take off with the building of San Lorenzo. Lib builds a “great city” by the narrow neck of land in the Land Southward. ± 1200-300 BC?
± 6,000-1,500 BC Middle & Late Archaic Post-Dearth Jaredite Culture ± 1200-300 BC?
± 1,500 BC End of Archaic Cultures Jaredite Desolation ± 300 BC

*Jaredite dates are only approximate- the Book of Mormon does not give exact dates for Jaredite events and carbon dating has a large margin of error with these early dates