The following is a reprint of the pamphlet +quot;Archaeology and the Book of Mormon+quot;

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The following is a reprint of the pamphlet "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon" by Hal Hougey (revised Ed. 6/83-6M). It gives a little insight into how far the Mormon church leaders are willing to go to "prove" that the Book of Mormon is an archaeologically "sound" book. For further information, and amplification on the subject, I heartily suggest the book "Archaeology and the Book of Mormon" by Jerald and Sandra Tanner (available through Utah Lighthouse Ministries, P.O. BOX 1884, Salt Lake City, Utah. 84110. List price is $3.00.) Note: All items in single quotes (') denote italicized literary references in the original pamphlet. HAS AMERICAN ARCHAEOLOGY VERIFIED THE BOOK OF MORMON? . Latter-Day Saints believe the 'Book of Mormon' is the record of at least some of the ancient inhabitants of the New World. They have often claimed that the study of the artifacts and ruins left by these early inhabitants of America has proven the historicity of the 'Book of Mormon'. Some have even claimed that reputable archaeologists have used the 'Book of Mormon' as a guide book in locating the ruins of ancient cities in Central America! We shall here consider these claims. For the sake of brevity, and to avoid any possibility of quibbling, we shall limit ourselves to statements made by Mormon scholars and apologists. I. Can an Archaeological Test Be Applied to the 'Book of Mormon'? . The numerous books and articles by Latter-day Saints over the years have shown that Mormons believe that the fruits of archaeological research may be properly applied to verify the 'Book of Mormon'. Dr. Ross T. Christensen, a Mormon anthropologist, agrees with this in the following quotations from the "Newsletter" of the University Archaeological Society which has it's headquarters at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah: "...the Book of Mormon is in such a key position in relation to the Latter-day Saint religion as a whole that the entire structure of the latter must stand or fall with the verification or refutation of the former; and finally, that the Book of Mormon is of such a nature that its validity can be submitted to a thorough and objective scientific test." ('U.A.S Newsletter', No. 64, January 30, 1960, pp. 5-6) "If the Book's history is fallacious, its doctrine cannot be genuine. On the other hand, if the historical content proves to be correct, by inference, it is impossible that the doctrine could be incorrect." (Ibid., p. 4) "It is entirely possible that we shall some day have a thorough knowledge of the archaeological history of the entire New World, and if our search nowhere turns up materials that can be fitted into the Book of Mormon picture of extensive civilizations of Near Eastern origin, then that record stands disproved. In a word, I am fully confident that the nature of the Book is such that a definitive archaeological test can be applied to it." (Ibid., p. 3) II. The Status of Archaeology among Latter-day Saints Latter-day Saints have only recently entered seriously into the field of anthropology, though they have "long evidenced an avid, though amateur, interest in the subject" since the earliest days of the Mormon church. It was not until 1938 that the first Latter-day Saint earned a doctorate in anthropology (M. Wells Jakeman, at the University of California). In 1946 a Department of Archaeology was established at Brigham Young University. This department "was particularly dedicated to researches bearing on the Scriptures upon which Latter-day Saints base their faith" (Ibid., pp. 1, 2). Consequently, nearly all of the literature produced by Mormon writers in the field of archaeology has been on an amateur level, and therefore is marked by its lack of objectivity and scholarship, since the writers lacked the professional training essential to producing acceptable work. As Christensen says: "Latter-day saints who have had any formal training in archaeology are exceedingly few. In other words, the interest which they have had in this field has been up to the present largely on an amateur rather than professional level. I am convinced that this sort of "archaeology" in the Church will be no more effective in solving the problems which face us than folk medicine would be in protecting the health of the people." (Ibid.) While there are today only a few Latter-day Saints with a doctor's degree in anthropology, these few have served to curtail the extravagant claims which have been made by Mormon missionaries and by the lavish picture books published by Mormons in which ancient ruins in Mexico and Central America are presented as proof of the 'Book of Mormon'. While this is a welcome change, think of all the people who have been won to Mormonism by these false claims! III. Mormon Anthropologists Contradict Mormon Missionaries and Writers When Mormon missionaries and writers make extravagant claims about American archaeology proving the 'Book of Mormon', we need only to refer them to the following statements by their own anthropologists: "The statement that the Book of Mormon has already been proved by archaeology is misleading. The truth of the matter is that we are only now beginning to see even the outlines of the archaeological time-periods which could compare with those of the Book of Mormon. How, then, can the matter have been settled once and for all? That such an idea could exist indicates the ignorance of many of our people with regard to what is going on in the historical and anthropological sciences." (Christensen in 'U.A.S. Newsletter', No. 64, January 30, 1960, p. 3) "Many times, Mormon missionaries have told their investigators that such late-period ruins as Monte Alban (periods III-V), Yagul, and Mitla were built by Nephites and that the archaeologists would confirm this. Both claims are untrue. However, the earliest periods of the area, Monte Alban I and II although as yet little known, are of Preclassic (i.e. Book of Mormon period) date. One may think of these earlier peoples as Jaredites or Nephites, but if so it must be on the basis of faith, not archaeology, for so far there is no explicit evidence that Book of Mormon peoples occupied this area [Oaxaca, in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec area of Mexico]." (Joseph E. vincent in 'U.A.S Newsletter', No. 66, May 7, 1960, p. 2) . Regarding LDS writers who claim that archaeology has proved the 'Book of Mormon', John L Sorenson, who was assistant professor of anthropology and sociology at Brigham Young University, says: "Various individuals unconnected with these institutionalized activities have also wrestled with the archaeological problem. Few of the writings they have produced are of genuine consequence in archaeological terms. Some are clearly on the oddball fringe; others have credible qualifications. Two of the most prolific are Professor Hugh Nibley and Milton R. Hunter; however, they are not qualified to handle the archaeological materials their works often involve." "As long as Mormons generally are willing to be fooled by (and pay for) the uninformed, uncritical drivel about archaeology and the scriptures which predominates, the few LDS experts are reluctant even to be identified with the topic." ('Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought', Spring 1966, pp. 145, 146) Dee Green, who received the MA degree in archaeology at BYU in 1961, was a general officer of the University Archaeological Society, editor of the 'UAS Newsletter' from 1958-1961, conducted excavations in southern Mexico, and is assistant professor of anthropology at Weber State College, comments: "Those volumes which most flagrantly ignore time and space and most radically distort, misinterpret, or ignore portions of the archaeological evidence are the popular Farnsworth volumes. Also inadequate, from a professional archaeologist's point of view, are the well intentioned volumes by Milton R. Hunter and a number of smaller pamphlets and works by various authors..." "New World-Old World comparisons have been less popular but equally fraught with with problems. The best known examples are the two volumes by [Hugh] Nibley which suffer from an overdose of 'Old- Worlditis.'...He does not know New World culture history well, and his writing ignores the considerable indigenous elements in favor of exclusively Old World patterns." ('Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought', Summer 1969. p. 74) Dr. John L. Sorenson makes an even broader statement when he says: "I do not believe that any neutral-but-interested jury would be convinced today by any evidence that is at hand that Zarahemla has been found, that any Egyptian writing has been found in the New World, that any Semitic writing has been found in the New World, or any other of these specific kinds of proof." ('Book of Mormon Institute', Dec. 5, 1959, pp. 26-27) In an address to the Archaeological Society at BYU, Fletcher B. Hammond stated: "...there does not yet appear any artifact that we Latter-day Saints can present to the world - and prove by any scientific rule - that such artifact is conclusive proof of any part of the Book of Mormon." ('Geography of the Book of Mormon', presented March 25, 1964, p. 5) Christensen chides his brethren with the following comment: "As for the notion that the Book of Mormon has already been proved by archaeology, I must say with Shakespeare, 'Lay not that flattering unction to your soul!'" (Hamlet III:4). ('U.A.S. Newsletter', No. 64, January 30, 1960, p. 3) What about the Mormon claim that non-Mormons have found the 'Book of Mormon' helpful as a guide in locating ruins of cities in Central America? M. Wells Jakeman, Mormon anthropologist, answers this question: "It must be confessed that some members of the "Mormon" or Latter-day Saint Church are prone, in their enthusiasm for the Book of Mormon, to make claims for it that cannot be supported. So far as is known to the writer, no non-Mormon archaeologist at the present time is using the Book of Mormon as a guide in archaeological research. Nor does he know of any non-Mormon archaeologist who holds that the American Indians are descendants of the Jews, or that Christianity was known in America in the first century of our era. This in itself, of course, does not disprove the Book of Mormon; for not enough is yet known of the actual period of that record in ancient America, or of the origin of the American Indians, for a final judgment at this time, scientifically speaking." (Ibid., No. 57, March 25, 1959, p. 4) "With the exception of Latter-day Saint archaeologists, members of the archaeological profession do not, and never have, espoused the Book of Mormon in any sense of which I am aware. Non-Mormon archaeologists do not allow the Book of Mormon any place whatever in their reconstruction of the early history of the New World." (Christensen in 'U.A.S. Newsletter', No. 64, January 30, 1960, p. 3) IV. The Increasing Frustration of Mormon Scholars . As the techniques of archaeological research become more sophisticated and the body of archaeological knowledge increases, the absence of specific evidence for the 'Book of Mormon' becomes more striking, and the chance for finding that evidence decreases. This fact seems to be causing an increasing sense of frustration among Mormon scholars, as the following quotations indicate. Clark S. Knowlton, speaking on the "Problems In Book of Mormon Archaeology," said: "If archaeologists do uncover material remains of civilizations in the Americas that resemble in cultural characteristics those of the Middle east that existed when the Book of Mormon peoples migrated to the Americas, the whole theological position of Mormonism will be strengthened. On the other hand, if no such relationships are found, our critics will then raise grave questions about the authenticity of the Book of Mormon." ('Thirtieth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures', 1961, p. 52) Ross T. Christensen, speaking on the lack of evidence indicating a connection between the Old World and 'Book of Mormon' cultures said: "...the spirit of caution is urged, for the reason that there are a number of points where correspondence should have been found but to this date have not been. There seems to be no fully adequate explanation for the lack of such traits in the New World, required by the Book of Mormon, as Old World plants, smelted iron, and Near Eastern forms of writing." ('Progress in Archaeology', BYU, 1963, p. 147) Francis W. Kirkham, a Mormon apologist, seemed to sense this frustration when he addressed the Fifteenth Annual Symposium on the Archaeology of the Scriptures at BYU on May 16, 1964, when he said: "Now, Brother Jakeman...I want to say to you, be patient. (I'll say the same thing to you, Dr. Christensen and the rest of you in this field.) Be patient; the Book of Mormon is true." (p. 7) Dr. Hugh Nibley of BYU, a prolific Mormon writer and apologist, wrote: "Everything written so far by anthropologists or archaeologists - even real archaeologists - about the Book of Mormon must be discounted, for the same reason that we must discount studies of the lost Atlantis; not because it did not exist, but because it has not yet been found." ('Since Cumorah', Salt Lake City, 1967, p. 244) Dee Green wrote the following in 1969: "Having spent a considerable portion of the past ten years functioning as a scientist dealing with New World archaeology, I find that nothing in so-called Book of Mormon archaeology materially affects my religious commitment one way or the other, and I do not see that the archaeological myths so common in our proselytizing program enhance the process of true conversion." "The first myth we need to eliminate is that Book of Mormon archaeology exists. Titles on books full of archaeological half- truths, dilettanti on the peripheries of American archaeology calling themselves Book of Mormon archaeologists regardless of their education, and Department of Archaeology at BYU devoted to the production of Book of Mormon archaeologists do not insure that Book of Mormon archaeology really exists. If one is to study Book of Mormon archaeology then one must have a corpus of data with which to deal. We do not. The Book of Mormon is really there so one can have Book of Mormon studies, and archaeology is really there so one can study archaeology, but the two are not wed. At least they are not wed in reality since no Book of Mormon location is known with reference to modern topography. Biblical archaeology can be studied because we do know where Jerusalem and Jericho were and are, but we do not know where Zarahemla and Bountiful (nor any location for that matter) were or are. It would seem then that a concentration on geography should be the first order of business, but we have already seen that twenty years of such an approach has left us empty-handed." ('Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought', Summer 1969, pp. 74, 76, 77, 78) The frustration and embarrassment of Mormon scholars can be understood when it is realized that after all the years of work by both Mormon and other archaeologists: 1. No 'Book of Mormon' cities have been located. 2. No 'Book of Mormon' names have been found in New World inscriptions. 3. No genuine inscriptions have been found in Hebrew. 4. No genuine inscriptions have been found in Egyptian or anything similar to Egyptian, which could correspond to Joseph Smith's "Reformed Egyptian." 5. No ancient copies of 'Book of Mormon' scriptures have been found. 6. No ancient inscriptions of any kind which indicate that the ancient inhabitants had Hebrew or Christian beliefs - all are pagan. 7. No mention of 'Book of Mormon' persons, nations, or places have been found. 8. No artifact of any kind which demonstrates the 'Book of Mormon' is true has been found. 9. Rather than finding supportive evidence, Mormon scholars have been forced to retreat from traditional interpretations of 'Book of Mormon' statements (For an example of this, see the latter portion of this pamphlet on the location of Cumorah). . Lacking any positive evidence for the 'Book of Mormon', Mormon scholars have had to spend a great deal of time in the sterile area of dealing with objections to 'Book of Mormon' claims, generally without any marked degree of success. V. The Book of Abraham Disaster In 1842 Joseph Smith published the Book of Abraham, which was allegedly a translation of some papyri found with an Egyptian mummy brought to the United States from Egypt a few years earlier. While Champollion was at that time struggling to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphics, no one could yet read them, so Joseph was safe in claiming to translate the papyri. He stated that the papyri were in the handwriting of Abraham himself. Latter-day Saints have accepted these supposed translations and they have been included in the 'Pearl of Great Price', a collection of Mormon scriptures in addition to the 'Book of Mormon'. In the confusion following Joseph Smith's death in 1844, the papyri appeared to have been lost. However, they eventually became the possession of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where they lay forgotten in their files for many years. On November 27, 1967, newspapers announced that the Museum was turning them over to the Mormon church. This announcement was the cause of rejoicing among Mormons, but it soon turned into a nightmare. For now the papyri were available for the world to examine, and it was soon found by Mormon scholars that the papyri contained nothing about Abraham, but were a common type of Egyptian funerary papyrus usually found with mummies. Translation of these papyri has compelled a number of informed Mormons to reject the Book of Abraham as scripture, and some even doubt Joseph Smith was the prophet he claimed to be. Some prominent Latter-day Saints, such as Dee Jay Nelson, have left the Mormon church as a result of these disclosures. Mr. Nelson is an Egyptologist and was asked by the LDS church to translate the Book of Abraham materials. His translation revealed the true nature of the documents, and Mr. Nelson made his findings public. The church refused to acknowledge his findings, and in December 1975, Mr. Nelson officially resigned from the church, stating that he did not want membership in an organization which refused to reveal the truth. Other well known persons in the LDS church have intellectually left the church, although they have officially maintained membership because of family pressures. We conclude, therefore, that the 'Book of Mormon' remains completely unverified by archaeology. The claims Mormon missionaries have made are fallacious and misleading. Many honest and sincere people who have no background or training in the field of archaeology have been converted to Mormonism at least in part because of their false conviction that American archaeology has verified the 'Book of Mormon' record. May their eyes be opened to the wonderful light of truth as it is in God's Word, the Bible! CUMORAH WHERE? We shall now show that American archaeology has not only failed to verify the 'Book of Mormon', but that it has caused a division among Latter-day Saints concerning the interpretation of the geographical references in the 'Book of Mormon', and is forcing Latter-day saints to make a heart-searching decision which has eternal consequences. I. The Interest in Archaeology in Joseph Smith's Day In the 1820's there was a tremendous interest on the part of Americans in the origin and history of the New World. Settlers were familiar with the mounds and relics left by a race that had preceded them. Numerous books had been written about the possible origin and history of these prehistoric people, as well as about the great native civilizations of Mexico and Peru. The most widely believed theory of the origin of the Indians during Joseph Smith's boyhood was that they were descendants of the Hebrews, and many subscribed to this theory. Of the many books published which advocated this idea was one entitled 'View of the Hebrews', written by Ethan Smith and published at Poultney, Vermont in 1823. So popular was this book that a second edition was brought out in 1825. It is quite possible, if not probable, that Oliver Cowdery carried a copy of this book with him when he left his boyhood home in Poultney and moved into western New York, where he soon came into contact with the Smith family. So striking are the similarities of the 'Book of Mormon' to 'View of the Hebrews' that some scholars believe that Ethan Smith's book was the primary inspiration for Joseph Smith's book. . At any rate, the 'Book of Mormon' capitalized on the current interest and popular theories about the Indians by purporting to be a history of the ancient inhabitants of America. Seeing in the 'Book of Mormon' an appealing answer to their curiosity, many people quickly accepted the book as a true record. II. Geography of the 'Book of Mormon' . Joseph Smith was familiar with the advanced state of the native civilizations in Central and South America as well as the relics of the early inhabitants of western New York, because of the many books available on these topics. Consequently, he used both continents for the scene of action in the 'Book of Mormon'. . The 'Book of Mormon' tells of the voyage of the Jaredites from the Tower of Babel to America, and later of the voyage of Lehi and his sons from Jerusalem. While the geographical references in the book are vague, it speaks of "the land northward" and "the land southward," connected by a "narrow neck of land." The book also speaks of a "land of many waters," and "the waters of Ripliancum," and a hill called "Ramah" by the Jaredites and "Cumorah" by the Nephite descendants of Lehi. The classic Mormon interpretation is that these phrases refer to North and South America, and the Isthmus of Panama (or Darien, as it used to be called). Earlier editions of the 'Book of Mormon' contained footnotes explaining that the "land of many waters" was the Great Lake region, including western New York. "Cumorah" (or "Ramah") was identified as the hill near Palmyra, New York, where Joseph claimed to have found the plates from which the 'Book of Mormon' was translated. Current editions of the 'Book of Mormon' no longer carry these geographical explanations (E. Cecil McGavin and Willard Bean, 'Geography of the Book of Mormon', pp. 3-4, 48-49). III. Joseph Smith's Explanation of These References That Joseph Smith intended the geographical references of the Book of Mormon' to be understood as explained above is obvious from the following quotations. Joseph Smith wrote the following, which appeared in 'Times and Seasons', September 15, 1842: "...we read in the Book of Mormon that Jared and his brother came on this continent from the confusion and scattering at the Tower, and lived here more than a thousand years, and covered the whole continent from sea to sea, with towns and cities; and that Lehi went down by the Red Sea to the great Southern Ocean, and crossed over to this land, and landed a little south of the Isthmus of Darien, and improved the country according to the word of the Lord..." (III:921-922. Quoted in Joseph Fielding Smith, 'Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith', 267) . A "Revelation to Joseph the Seer" states: "The course that Lehi and his company traveled from Jerusalem to the Place of their destination: They traveled nearly a south, southeast direction until they came to the nineteenth degree of north latitude; then, nearly east to the Sea of Arabia, then sailed in a southeast direction, and landed on the continent of South America, in Chili [sic], thirty degrees south latitude." (Franklin D. Richards and James A. Little, 'A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel', 289. B. H. Roberts doubts this is a revelation, and gives his reasons in 'New Witnesses for God', III:501-502. Yet, he admits that this description was "in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, Counselor to the Prophet, and on the same page with the body of an undoubted revelation.") Joseph Smith gives the following account of the discovery of a skeleton in a mound in Illinois in June, 1834: "During our travels we visited several of the mounds which had been thrown up by the ancient inhabitants of this country - Nephites, Lamanites, etc., and this morning I went up on a high mound, near the river, accompanied by the brethren...The brethren procured a shovel and a hoe, and removing the earth to a depth of about one foot, discovered the skeleton of a man, almost entire, and between his ribs the stone point of a Lamanitish arrow, which evidently produced his death. Elder Burr Riggs retained the arrow. The contemplation of the scenery around us produced peculiar sensations on our bosoms; and subsequently the visions of the past being opened to my understanding by the Spirit of the Almighty, I discovered that the person whose skeleton was before us was a white Lamanite, a large thick-set man, and a man of God. His name was Zelph. He was a warrior and chieftain under the great prophet Onandagus, who was known from the Hill Cumorah, or eastern sea to the Rocky mountains...He was killed in battle by the arrow found among his ribs, during the last struggle of the Lamanites and Nephites." (B. H. Roberts, Editor, 'Documentary History of the Church', II:79-80) Both Oliver Cowdery and Apostle Orson Pratt wrote that Cumorah in the 'Book of Mormon' was the same hill in which Joseph Smith found the plates ('Messenger and Advocate', July 1835; 'Millennial Star', XXVIII:417). Apostle Parley P. Pratt wrote: "This Book, which contained those things, was hid in the earth by Moroni, in a hill called by him, Cumorah, which hill is now in the State of New York, near the village of Palmyra, in Ontario county." ('Autobiography', 55-56) . Joseph Smith never contradicted these statements. IV. The New Mormon Theory Today, Latter-day Saints are divided over this matter of 'Book of Mormon' geography. Among those adhering to the classic interpretation are McGavin and Bean, and Dewey Farnsworth in his 'Book of Mormon Evidences in Ancient America'. . The 'new' view, called the "Tehuantepec" theory, is favored by Mormon anthropologists at Brigham Young University, and is finding some favor in the church leadership. As informed Latter-day Saints have become aware that the classic view is untenable in the light of modern archaeological knowledge, they have had to search for a new explanation of 'Book of Mormon' geography. Actually, B. H. Roberts had some misgivings about the classic view as early as 1909 ('New Witnesses for God', III:502-503), and suggested that the events of the 'Book of Mormon' might be restricted to Meso-america, with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico as the "narrow neck of land." This explanation makes it less difficult to harmonize the descriptions of the terrain and the Jaredite and Nephite civilizations in the 'Book of Mormon' with the archaeological data, and has therefore been accepted by the Mormon anthropologists at BYU in recent years. Dr. Christensen of Brigham Young University presents compelling reasons for accepting the "Tehuantepec" theory: "Perhaps some readers of the Nephite scripture will automatically assume that of course Book of Mormon peoples reached South America, since the sacred history presented in the record was actually enacted in large part on that continent. But is this necessarily true? Dr. Jakeman and others have developed the view that virtually the entire story of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica...Let me recapitulate my reasons for preferring the "Tehuantepec" theory of Book of Mormon geography to the "Panama" theory. If the Isthmus of Panama is the "narrow neck of land," then Colombia in northwestern South America must be the central Nephite region, or the Zarahemla- Bountiful land of the Book of Mormon, and must contain evidences of advanced civilization. But on the other hand if the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico is the "narrow neck of land," then northern Guatemala, Tabasco, and Chiapas - not Colombia - must contain the Bountiful-Zarahemla land and present these evidences." "The types of ancient culture revealed by archaeology in Guatemala, Tabasco, and Chiapas on the one hand and in Colombia on the other, definitely favor the Tehuantepec theory. The prehistoric cultures of Colombia do not fit into the picture required by the Book of Mormon: they are not of the right kind; they are not the sort of thing that one would expect from reading the Book. For one thing, they are highly provincialized cultures of limited distribution. "Much greater civilizational heights were achieved in Guatemala, Tabasco, and Chiapas. In all of Colombia there hardly exists such a thing as a standing ruin, but in Chiapas and surrounding areas there exist many great cities of stone and other materials..." "The early civilizations in Mesoamerica date back to the centuries before the time of Christ, while one of them in the Valley of Mexico and nearby goes back as far as 1500 or 2000 BC. In Colombia, on the contrary, the oldest known civilizations date back to only three or four centuries before the coming of the Spaniards, with the possible exception of San Augustin." "The terrain of Tehuantepec fits the requirements of the "narrow neck of land" much more satisfactorily than does that of Panama. It is relatively flat...The mountains on either side give way abruptly, leaving a nearly level isthmus, which could easily have been traversed, fortified, and defended. The Isthmus of Panama, however, presents a very difficult terrain: dense jungle superimposed upon a rugged mountain range extending the entire length of the republic." (Christensen in 'U.A.S. Newsletter', No. 67, July 7, 1960, pp. 2-3) V. Difficulties of the "Tehuantepec" Theory There are some obvious difficulties of the "Tehuantepec" theory. Christensen admits one of these when he says, "There is, to be sure, one apparent disadvantage in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec: it seems to be too wide to be the 'narrow neck of land'" (Ibid., p. 3). Certainly if the 'Book of Mormon' lands are limited to southern Mexico and Guatemala, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is not nearly narrow enough to be called a "narrow neck of land," in relation to the size of the adjoining territories. Panama, however, fits this description beautifully. In the absence of any satisfactory explanation, Christensen theorizes that alluvial deposits have widened the isthmus during the past 1500 years! Another difficulty is the Hill Cumorah. According to the 'Book of Mormon', the Nephite records were buried in this hill, and Joseph Smith tells us that an angel directed him to these plates, near Palmyra, New York. Now, if the 'Book of Mormon' history is confined to Mesoamerica, how could the plates have been found by Joseph in New York? Vincent, in his notes accompanying his map of 'Book of Mormon' lands, attempts to answer this question: "One last word - the Hill Cumorah. Some identify it with the hill in New York (later named Cumorah) in which the Plates were found, whereas the majority (including Mormon archaeologists and those who study the internal evidence of the Book itself) place it in Mesoamerica, roughly as it is shown in this map. The latter group feel that those who insist that it is located in New York lack the faith in a God who, if he can reveal and cause the translations of the Plates could certainly arrange for their transportation at the proper time from the Hill Cumorah in Mexico to New York." This answer is certainly not satisfactory, since it does not explain why the angel who showed Joseph Smith the plates went to the trouble of re-burying them in New York, nor why that angel never explained that the plates had been transported from Mexico, thereby leading generations of Latter-day Saints into an erroneous and embarrassing interpretation. A third, and insurmountable, difficulty involved in acceptance of the "Tehuantepec" theory is that it denies the inspiration of Joseph Smith, since he claimed revelations from God to the effect that the Nephites and Lamanites occupied much of the North American continent, and fought their last battles in an area which included the present state of Illinois! Joseph Fielding Smith, church historian, and later president and prophet of the church, rejected the "Tehuantepec" theory with these words: "Within recent years there has arisen among certain students of the Book of Mormon a theory to the effect that within the period covered by the Book of Mormon, the Nephites and Lamanites were confined almost within the borders of the territory comprising Central America and the southern portion of Mexico; the Isthmus of Tehuantepec probably being the "narrow neck" of land spoken of in the Book of Mormon rather than the Isthmus of Panama...This modernistic theory of necessity, in order to be consistent, must place the waters of Ripliancum and the Hill Cumorah some place within the restricted territory of Central America, notwithstanding the teachings of the Church to the contrary for upwards of 100 years...In the light of revelation it is absurd for anyone to maintain that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess this northern land...In the face of this evidence coming from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer, we cannot say that the Nephites and Lamanites did not possess the territory of the United States and that the Hill Cumorah is in Central America." ('The Deseret News', Church Section, Feb. 27, 1954, pp. 2-3). Reprint courtesy of Ken Simmons.


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