by Theodore Brandley
By meticulously matching The Book Of Mormon text to the facts on the ground, Warren P. Aston and others have settled the Arabian geography question in the minds of most Latter-day Saints. This is not the case in America where occurred the vast majority of the events of the thousand-year saga of The Book Of Mormon. The American geography of the Book of Mormon has many competing theories that are divided mainly into two camps, those supporting a geography limited to the area of Mesoamerica and those supporting a geography in the north-central and Atlantic regions of the United States. Both groups have evidence to support their claims, which they vigorously defend and just as vigorously condemn the opposing views. There is much divisiveness among the members of the Church in regards to the American geography of The Book Of Mormon. This divisiveness and uncertainty plays into the hands of the enemies of the Church who use it as evidence that The Book Of Mormon is therefore a fable and is not true.
However, those Latter-day Saints who contend with one another over the locations of the events of the book, all know that the book is true by the power of the Holy Ghost, and mainly desire to further verify it by locating its geography. They are all good members of the Church who sometimes slip into contentious disputes over this issue. The author of this article has also been guilty of this error. I believe that the truth of the geography of The Book Of Mormon lies in the union of these two main opposing theories and therefore propose to offer a series of Interpreter Blog posts on this subject to explore, with anyone interested, other possibilities in matching the text to the American terrain. I believe this could lead us to a more common understanding of this issue.
I shall write these posts, or discussion headings, under the main title, “North American Book of Mormon Geography.” Most of the authors and supporters of the two main competing theories would agree that the North American Continent is the land to which Lehi was led and where the subsequent events of their record occurred. This is also evidenced by Moroni who told Joseph Smith in Upstate New York that, the book gave “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent” (JSH 1:34) This statement could have included South America because at that time some maps were still showing the two American Continents as one. However, Lehi’s landing and further events in North America are supported by the fact that the Panama land-bridge between North and South America is almost impenetrable. The 16,000 mile Pan American Highway that runs from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean to the southern tip of Argentina, has only one break—the fifty-four mile gap through the Darien Jungle between Panama City, Panama, and Columbia, South America. Modern equipment and engineering have not yet been able to build a road through this dense swamp and formidable growth. In 1854 an American Expedition searching for a route for the Panama Canal could not hack their way through this jungle. They became so lost and hungry in this forty-mile-wide isthmus that they ate their dead.1 If Lehi had landed in South America, the Nephites could probably not have migrated to North America by land. Additionally, Jacob stated that, “the Lord has made the sea our path, and we are upon an isle of the sea” (2 Nephi 10:20). Mormon gave further evidence of that isle when he wrote that the lands of the Nephites and the Lamanites were nearly surrounded by water, except for a small neck of land that led to another land (Alma 22:32). That the small neck of land was at the southern end of the island continent is also evidenced by Moroni burying the gold plates in North America rather than in South America. I therefore propose that we begin our discussion with a consensus that The Book Of Mormon events of the Promised Land occurred on the continent of North America.
Subject to the approval of Interpreter I further propose to post subsequent blogs for further discussion under the sub-headings:
The River Sidon
The City of Zarahemla
The Land of Nephi
The Land of Zarahemla
The Land of Bountiful
The Land Desolation
I intend to do this not to try and prove my personal theory, but to demonstrate that there is a plausible North American setting supported by the text of The Book Of Mormon that links the two main competing theories, and everyone can keep the true evidence they have for their current positions.
In Panama’s Jungle, LA Times, March 18, 2005 ↩