Monday, December 17, 2007

Fundamentalist Geography: Limited Geography Model of the Book of Mormon

Book of Momron’s story on the left and proposed real world location of the right. Images taken from [1] and [2]

For Columbus Day week I looked at the geohistory of the settlement of the Americas. There is one "revelation" I did not examine though. The limited geography model attempts to scientifically explain the Book of Mormon's story of the colonization of the Western Hemisphere.

The short version is that a first wave of colonization by the Jaredites came from Babel, prospered and died out around 600 BC. This was followed by the arrival of Lehi and his family. Flash forward and eventually the group splits in two between the Nephites and Lamanites. The Lamanites destroy the Nephites and are cursed “skin of blackness” for their sins. The Lamanites then become what are now referred to as American Indians.

The Book of Mormon’s proposed Indian-origin story is similar to other theories from the early nineteenth century. There were a wide range of theories on Indian origins and ancient Hebrews was one of them. People then and even today seek to map out the proposed geography of the epic.

Most limited geography models have the story taking place in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The book describes a lush land with warm climate with earthquakes, mountains, and volcanoes. The land is also described as being in between two massive bodies of waters. Some Mormon geographers take this to be the isthmus.

While the vast majority of geohistorians see no proof of the tale there are those who seek to explain despite a mountain of evidence. When I was at National Geographic we received some hate mail from a few fundamentalists who were angered that we depicted paleo-Indians coming from eastern Russia.

For more limited geography model information check out

Supporting View: Meridian Magazine: Mormon's Map Puzzle Solved

Opposing View: Does Archaeology Support The Book Of Mormon?

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