Heartland Model of Book of Mormon geography

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Heartland Model of Book of Mormon geography



Question: What is the Heartland Model of Book of Mormon geography

This geography was originally based on a DVD presentation produced by Rodney Meldrum

Model Name Date Proposed Scope Narrow Neck Land North Land South Cumorah River Sidon Nephi's Landing Religion Type of model

Model name: Meldrum 2003

Date proposed: 2003?
Scope: LGT
Narrow neck: Niagara Peninsula
Land north: Upper Canada
Land south: Mississippi river system to Gulf of Mexico
Cumorah: New York
Sidon: Mississippi
Landing: Gulf of Mexico
Religion: LDS
Type: External

This geography was originally based on a DVD presentation (which is in turn based on fireside presentations) produced by Rodney (Rod) Meldrum: Rodney Meldrum, DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography: New scientific support for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; Correlation and Verification through DNA, Prophetic, Scriptural, Historical, Climatological, Archaeological, Social, and Cultural Evidence (Rodney Meldrum, 2007), mail-order DVD. ( Index of claims ).

Other works and sources include:

  • Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum, Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon & The United States of America (Salt Lake City, UT: Digital Legend, 2009), 1–.
  • Rod Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA (Honeoye Falls, NY: Digital Legend Press, 2009), 1–.
  • The FIRM Foundation
  • LDSPromisedLand.com [this company was formed by Meldrum, Bruce Porter, Wayne May, and LDS Travel president Brian Mickelsen. The company was sold in 2012]. Despite being president of this group for a time, Meldrum opted to conduct his own seminars in competition with this group because of financial reasons. According to Bruce Porter:
(Meldrum) felt that he needed to pull away from that company [ldspromisedland.com] because he could make more money doing it on his own. And that was a business decision that he made…. but it's what Rod does for a living, and everybody has a right to earn a living.[1]


Mark Alan Wright: "The core locations and events detailed in the text of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, but many Nephites and Lamanites migrated and established settlements far northward"

Mark Alan Wright,

My basic thesis is this: The core locations and events detailed in the text of the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica, but many Nephites and Lamanites migrated and established settlements far northward of the core area and are thus simply outside the scope of the text. I am certainly not the first to make this argument or note the significance of this northward migration, but from countless conversations I have had about Book of Mormon geography over the past few years I have found that many people are unfamiliar with the ideas. —(Click here to continue) [2]


Question: Did LDS scholar Hugh Nibley support the "Heartland model" of Book of Mormon geography?

Heartland advocates often cite Nibley selectively, and do not provide a full inventory of his statements

Advocates of the "Heartland" geographical model claim that LDS scholar Hugh Nibley supported their view. Heartland advocates often cite Nibley selectively, and do not provide a full inventory of his statements. Nibley's writings suggest that he was partial to a Mesoamerican model, with later infiltration of some ideas northward. For example, in his 1946 reply to Fawn Brodie, Nibley rejected the idea that the moundbuilders of the eastern United States—used by the Heartland theory as evidence of Book of Mormon geography--had anything to do with the Book of Mormon:

"The Moundbuilders actually resemble the Book of Mormon people not at all. Who said they did? The Book of Mormon tells of a people ages removed from the Mound-builders and very far away." [3]

He would later say:

"All this took place in Central America, the perennial arena of the Big People versus the Little People."[4]

Whether Nibley agrees with an idea does not mean that it is true or false—each idea must be evaluated by the strength of the evidence. In this case, however, Heartland advocates attempt to trade on Nibley's prestige and authority to reinforce their position, by giving the false impression that he agrees with him.

This is not honest scholarship.

Nibley repeatedly mentioned a variety of geographical theories, including Central America

  • "Book of Mormon geography is a waste of time. I wouldn't touch it with a forty-foot pole. Never have; it's not necessary."[5]
  • "What of the mighty ruins of Central America? It is for those who know them to speak of them... It is our conviction that proof of the Book of Mormon does lie in Central America."[6]
  • “Write on anything you want, because that is where you give yourself away. Joseph Smith could write anything at all; no one knew about Central America in those times long ago.”[7]
  • “For example, the book describes in considerable detail what is supposed to be a major earthquake somewhere in Central America, and another time it sets forth the particulars of ancient olive culture. Here are things we can check up on; but to do so we must go to sources made available by scholars long since the days of Joseph Smith. Where he could have learned all about major Central American earthquakes or the fine points of Mediterranean olive culture remains a question.”[8]
  • In the summer of 1971, Hugh traveled to Mexico and Guatemala. He wrote about his trip in his article. In his article, he alludes to Teotihuacan outside Mexico City as one of the great temple centers of antiquity and describes the imposing architecture of El Castillo and El Caracol at Chichen Itza. Nibley then summarizes by saying, “The great monuments do not represent what the Nephites stood for; rather, they stand for what their descendants, ‘mixed with the blood of their brethren,’ descended to.”[9]
  • Kirk Magleby wrote: "My last visit with Hugh was with Jack Welch [of FARMS] in 2003. We met in the Nibley home on Seventh North in Provo. We talked about the many trips Hugh had made to the Hopi villages in northern Arizona. He reiterated his belief that the Book of Mormon took place in Mesoamerica with echoes and remnants filtering up into the native cultures of the continental United States."[10]
  • “Hopewell cultural centers “are now believed to be definitely related to corresponding centers in Mesoamerica.”[9]
  • Nibley states that evidence is “more hospitable ... to the activities on one tragically short lived religious civilization that once flourished in Mesoamerica and then vanished towards the Northeast in the course of a series of confused tribal wars that was one long, drawn out retreat into oblivion.”[11]
  • "John Sorenson's book 'Images of America' must remain the indispensable handbook for students of the Book of Mormon. The only book of its kind — enlightening and convincing. Who else will ever bring such diligence, knowledge and honesty to the task?"[12]


Question: Are theories that do not agree with the Heartland model "apostate?"

The originator of the Heartland model believes that other models are "apostate"

The author of the Heartland model and theory claims that "I do not claim to know that this proposed theory is true, nor is any claim made that it has been received by revelation." [13]

The author indicated, upon learning of Daniel Peterson's firing from the Maxwell Institute, that he believed that this represented a purging of "apostate" theories of Book of Mormon geography: [14]

I am so thankful that BYU has purged apostate theories from the MI!

It is thus clear that the author regards anyone who differs from his "revealed" theory as apostate. Peterson pointed out that his conclusion was, in any case, in error: the Maxwell Institute was then preparing to publish John Sorenson's work on the Mesoamerican geographical model.

"it was clear that I was going to have to leave [my job] to work on these projects full time, but I wanted more of a 'sign' from the Lord"

There are, however, multiple other indications of the author's attitude toward those who differ with him. [15]

The author sent an e-mail on 9 May 2008 in which he invited those who had purchased his DVD to become members of his FIRM Foundation. This communiqué strikes quite a different tone:

After fasting and praying about it with my family, and after reading my patriarchal blessing, . . . it was clear that I was going to have to leave [my job] to work on these projects full time, but I wanted more of a 'sign' from the Lord. So I had three big projects about to close with [my job], and I told the Lord that if he wants me to make this project my #1 priority to please cause that none of these jobs go through. . . . Well, within three days all three of the jobs were either terminated by the client, lost to another company, or delayed until next year! So on Monday, April 21st, I put in my two weeks notice and began my new life working full-time on this project. [16]

This reply was reportedly received from a patriarchal blessing, fasting, and prayer. The author then seeks a sign from God and gets it. Yet he argues that we are unjustified in concluding that this account strongly implies that God supports or agrees with what he is doing. Why would God give him a sign to spread a false theory about the Book of Mormon full-time? And why would he tell others about his sign-seeking unless he wants to influence them? Why would such divine instruction come to him and not to the president of the LDS Church?

Recipients were then told about a blessing that he had requested from an emeritus General Authority, "my dear friend":

[My wife] and I had the most incredible and special experience as we met with [him]. . . . [We were given] the most incredible blessing[s] imaginable. They were incredibly powerful and caused both [my wife] and I to no longer doubt the validity of work in which we are engaged.

There is no doubt in the authors' minds about the validity of what they are doing. This again seems a claim of certainty for the theory the author is teaching full-time—or it is an attempt to exaggerate his importance so that others will support him. The reported blessing goes on to promise fruit from his efforts:

The only thing I can share from the blessings is that the overall understanding is that this information will go out to "millions" who will be touched by the work, and that this will "embolden" the saints to open their mouths and declare anew the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that millions will find and enter his kingdom! The spirit was overwhelmingly wonderful and we felt so blessed to have that privilege.

So this theory will inspire millions, and millions will convert and be saved...are we to conclude that God would use a false or uncertain theory for such lofty purposes?

So this theory will inspire millions, and millions will convert and be saved. And other matters are alluded to that the recipients cannot yet know. One must ask, are we to conclude that God would use a false or uncertain theory for such lofty purposes?

The same theme continues on the FIRM Foundation Web site. [17] For example, a spiritual witness of the author's theories is asserted:

  • "It is nice to hear opinions that can be confirmed by the Holy Ghost."
  • "Several people have stated that this is an answer to prayer because of weak testimonies and questions that some Bishops & Stake Presidents can't answer—this will assist them. The children are asking questions and this should give answers."
  • "We have never been to the Hill Cumorah that is in Central America, but the Spirit tells us that the one [in New York] is the Hill Cumorah, or Ramah spoken of by the Prophet Joseph Smith."
  • "You have done a masterful job, we know that what you have uncovered is right."

The Web site likewise repeats the theme of certainty and proof:

  • "Like so many other things science has again proved that Joseph Smith is a prophet and did know what he talked about."
  • "I have felt in the past that the location of the lands of the Book of Mormon was controversial and now feel that the controversy is now over."
  • "This must find a way to the general public because of its authenticity and direct correlation with truth."
  • "It is so nice to see modern science prove out the gospel."
  • "How exciting that there are so many irrefutable evidences! Thank you so much for this gift of knowledge!"
  • "There is a certain satisfaction knowing that the words of the Lord are verified by the scientific community, whether they intended to do so or not."
  • "The stable blend of reason and revelation that will one day be acknowledged by all as the unshakable foundation upon which all truth is based . . ."
  • "Surely you are following Joseph's counsel to 'waste and wear out your life bringing to light' facts that have not been evident before some of today's newer scientific procedures have made such methods of proof possible."

Clearly, the author's theory is repeatedly described as having "proved" Joseph's prophetic status, it is "irrefutable," and it is an "unshakable foundation upon which all truth is based." If Meldrum disagrees with such enthusiasm, why does he use it to sell his materials?

So, why should we believe his book's disclaimer when the evidence for what is really going on is all over his other writings and Web site?

Several grandiose claims are also made:

  • "This is a major turning point in LDS and Book of Mormon history. It's hard to express the importance of these discoveries."
  • "These are amazing and powerful break-'with' findings that need to become more and more accessible to thousands if not millions of people."
  • "It's a relief to see someone take on the DNA argument against the Book of Mormon. I think people like you will be critically important to defending the Mormon faith against attacks by outsiders."
  • "I can't even sleep! I know in my heart that you are on to something very significant."

Such over-the-top praise seems unlikely to be instigated—much less publicized—by someone offering his audience a cautious theory. Note too the recurrence of the same theme that the author emphasized from his purported General Authority blessing: his work must affect thousands or millions.

Further revelation claims: The author announced that God had revealed the name of the foundation and how other aspects of its work should be conducted

The author's May 2008 e-mail announced that God had revealed the name of the foundation and how other aspects of its work should be conducted:

  • "I have pondered and prayed about a name for this organization and the name that was received is 'Foundation for Indigenous Research and Mormonism' and it will be called 'The FIRM Foundation.'"
  • "Within 48 hours the Lord provided the answer to how this was to be accomplished."
  • "Within 48 hours again the Lord provided another 'miracle.'"
  • "Right then he was prompted and he said 'We can make it into a research lab/facility to study these artifacts!' So the Lord is watching out for this project!"

The testimonials also claim that the author has been called by God to spread his theory:

  • "What you are being called to do is so much more, it's world wide and effects millions of people."
  • "How exciting to be able to talk to the very person who is behind such a great work. I felt so blessed when I hung up the phone and so thankful that the Lord has guided you through this sacred project. For now we will put out the word and pray daily that this will bring millions to the gospel."
  • "You have your work cut out for you. However, because it is true, you will definitely and infinitely find a guiding hand of assistance."
  • "All I can say is WOW!!! . . . How does it feel to be such a marvellous instrument in the Lord's hands? I am so impressed on so many levels and to think I actually know you."
  • "I am grateful to you for staying close to the Lord."
  • "I certainly enjoyed the insights you offered on the Almighty's pouring down knowledge from Heaven on the heads of honestly seeking Later-day Saints. . . . We love you for your noble efforts to be an instrument in the Lord's hand, and are praying for the Spirit to continue guiding you in such an important undertaking."

The author is "called" to be "an instrument in the Lord's hand," the "Spirit [is] guiding" him, he will bring "millions" to the truth, and it is an honor just to speak to him. Meldrum has no hesitation about publicizing "their words" so they "will touch the lives of others in positive ways."

Relationship of the Heartland model to other models

Summary: Are geographical models that do not agree with the Heartland model "apostate?"

Disdaining Joseph?

Summary: Do LDS scholars "disdain" the statements of Joseph Smith related to Book of Mormon geography?

"this land"

Summary: Definition of "this land" with respect to Book of Mormon geography

Location of Zarahemla

Summary: It is claimed that the location of the city of Zarahemla was provided to Joseph Smith through revelation and that it was located on the Mississippi River opposite where Nauvoo is located today.

Borders of the Lamanites

Summary: It is claimed that the proposal of a Mesoamerican limited geographical Book of Mormon setting contradicts D&C 54:8, which discusses the "borders of the Lamanites" being in North America.

Statements

Summary: Statements made by Church leaders, members, and publications about Book of Mormon geography issues
    • No revealed geography
      Brief Summary: A collection of statements indicating that there is no revealed geography for the Book of Mormon (these quotes are also in the collections below, by date). (Click here for full article)
      ∗       ∗       ∗
    • Statements by Hugh Nibley
      Brief Summary: LDS scholar Hugh Nibley is sometimes cited out of context by advocates of the Heartland theory who wish to claim his support for their ideas. They do this to disguise that Nibley argued for Mesoamerican involvement in the Book of Mormon. All of Nibley's statements should be considered if one wishes to know what he thought. (Click here for full article)
      ∗       ∗       ∗

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Heartland Model of Book of Mormon geography



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Heartland Model of Book of Mormon geography


Question: What is the Bat Creek Stone and is it related to Mormonism?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #493: Why Should Latter-day Saints Beware Fraudulent Artifacts? (Video)

The Bat Creek Stone is an artifact excavated in 1889 by the Smithsonian Institution: It is considered to be a forgery

A forged item can tell us nothing about ancient America in general, or the Book of Mormon in particular. Any current source that uses the Bat Creek Stone as evidence should be treated with caution; its author(s) are not using the most up-to-date information. At the very least, it is premature to rely on the Bat Creek Stone as evidence of anything related to ancient America.

Figure 1: The Bat Creek stone, from the original publication.

The Bat Creek Stone is an artifact excavated in 1889 by the Smithsonian Institution [see Figure 1], and was also found with brass bracelets.

The stone was described in a 1894 publication by the same group. [18] The author of the report, Cyrus Thomas, claimed that the marks were Cherokee. A review of Thomas' subsequent publications demonstrates that he likely concluded that the items were forged, but he did not make a more public point of this because he and the Smithsonian "had placed themselves in a position such that they really could not afford to pronounce the Bat Creek stone a forgery after publishing it." [19]

After Thomas, little attention was paid to the Bat Creek stone until 1970--as noted above, Thomas had probably recognized that it was fraudulent by 1898. In 1970, Cyrus Gordon of Brandeis university argued that the stone had been oriented improperly in the original publication. [20] If it was inverted, Gordon claimed, it became clear that the text was Paleo-Hebrew, and read "for the Jews." [21] Other scholars joined the debate, and the positions are well summarized by Mainfort and Kwas:

Figure 2: Purported source of the Bat Creek stone inscription; from Mainfort and Kwas p. 765.
As of 1993/94, the opinions of the principals in the debate may be summarized as follows. Cyrus Gordon was the earliest credible proponent of the Bat Creek stone as an authentic Paleo-Hebrew inscription, though he acknowledged “problems” with three of the inscribed characters. Frank Moore Cross and Kyle McCarter pointed out additional paleographic difficulties and argued that too many of the characters were problematic for the inscription to be authentic. Huston McCulloch considered all of the inscribed characters to be legitimate Paleo-Hebrew (but disagreeing with Gordon about three of them) and presented radiocarbon evidence supporting an age for the stone in the first several centuries A.D. Finally, Mainfort and Kwas(1991, 1993a,1 993b) questioned the veracity of the find itself and presented evidence suggesting that Cyrus Thomas and his contemporaries recognized the Bat Creek stone as a fraud by the end of the nineteenth century. [22]

The case for forgery was strengthened in 2004

Although there were questions about the Bat Creek stone's origins, these were strengthened by a 2004 paper by Mainfort and Kwas. In it, they demonstrate that the text for the stone was copied from an 1870 book on Freemasonry: Robert Macoy, General History, Cyclopedia, and Dictionary of Freemasonry (New York, Masonic Publishing Co., 1870), 169. [See Figure 2.] The Masonic use of the inscription comes from a Jewish coin, reading "Holiness to the Lord," or "Holy to Yahweh." [23]

The man who discovered the Bat Creek Stone did so alone, and was not a professional archaeologist in the modern sense. He also seems to have "discovered" other artifacts that are clearly forgeries. [24] His problems with alcohol led to him being fired for a period; political pressure was necessary for him to regain his job, and his forgery may have been motivated by a desire to ensure his continued employment. [25] Others have argued that the evidence is not as air-tight as these authors believe. [26]

The Bat Creek Stone was also found with two bracelets, but these were dated to the eighteenth or nineteenth century

The Bat Creek Stone was also found with two bracelets, but these were dated to the eighteenth or nineteenth century. [27] This heightens the evidence of fraud still further.

McCulloch has replied to this analysis, arguing that the characteristics of the stone itself suggest many years of weathering, and argues that the inscription is not identical to the Masonic encyclopedia. [28]


Notes

  1. Michael De Groote, "Mormon geography conferences to compete this weekend," Deseret News (29 March 2010) off-site
  2. Mark Alan Wright, "Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography," Proceedings of the 2013 FAIR Conference (August 2013)
  3. Hugh W. Nibley, Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass: The Art of Telling Tales About Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Vol. 11 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by David J. Whittaker, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1991), "No Ma'am, That's Not History. ISBN 0875795161. GL direct link
  4. BYU Commencement Ceremony, 19 August 1983; cited in Hugh Nibley, "Leaders to Managers: The Fatal Shift," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 16 no. 4 (Winter 1983), 12-21.
  5. Hugh W. Nibley, "Lecture 18: 2 Nephi 3-8," in Teachings of the Book of Mormon: Transcripts of lectures presented to an Honors Book of Mormon Class at Brigham Young University 1988-1990, Vol. 1, (Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1993). ISBN 1591565715.
  6. Hugh W. Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Mormon, 3rd edition, (Vol. 6 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 378.
  7. Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: FARMS, 1989), 236.
  8. Hugh W. Nibley, Since Cumorah, 2nd edition, (Vol. 7 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Company ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1988), 231. ISBN 0875791395.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Hugh Nibley, "Ancient Temples: What Do They Signify?," Ensign (September 1972).
  10. [citation needed]
  11. Hugh W. Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and Timeless (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; 1978), 150.
  12. Nibley to John Sorenson, 14 January 1999).
  13. Rod Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA (Honeoye Falls, NY: Digital Legend Press, 2009), 5.
  14. Rod Meldrum, post on Daniel C. Peterson Patheos blog (19 November 2012, 11:45 a.m.).
  15. This page's original text was based in part on Gregory L. Smith, "Often in Error, Seldom in Doubt: Rod Meldrum and Book of Mormon DNA (A review of "Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA" by: Rod L. Meldrum)," FARMS Review 22/1 (2010): 17–161. off-site wiki
  16. Rodney Meldrum, "Update, and request to serve on the FIRM FOUNDATION Counsel?" promotional e-mail, 9 May 2008.
  17. "Testimonials," www.bookofmormonevidence.org/testimony.php (accessed 24 March 2010); emphasis added, spelling and grammar unaltered.
  18. Cyrus Thomas, Report on the Mound Explorations of the Bureau of Ethnology Twelfth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology for the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1890-‘91 (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.), 394.
  19. Robert C. Mainfort, Jr. and Mary L. Kwas, "The Bat Creek Stone Revisited: A Fraud Exposed," American Antiquity 69/4 (2004): 762-763.
  20. Cyrus H. Gordon, "New Directions in the Study of Ancient Middle Eastern Cultures," Bulletin of the Middle Eastern Cultural Center 5 (1991): 62. See Gordon's argument in an LDS publication: Cyrus H. Gordon, "A Hebrew Inscription Authenticated," in By Study and Also by Faith: Essays in Honor of Hugh W. Nibley on the Occasion of His Eightieth Birthday, 27 March 1990, ed. John M. Lundquist and Stephen D. Ricks (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS, 1990), 1:67-80. ISBN 0875793398. Vol. 1 off-site Vol. 2 off-site
  21. Mainfort and Kwas, 762-763.
  22. Mainfort and Kwas, 764.
  23. Mainfort and Kwas, 765.
  24. Stephen Williams, "Fantastic Archaeology: Another Road Taken by Some," Paper presented to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Boston, Massachusetts, 1993 as cited by Mainfort and Kwas, 765.
  25. Mainfort and Kwas, 765-766.
  26. His reply was rejected for publication in American Antiquity where the original debate took place. It is available on-line in PDF.
  27. Mainfort and Kwas, 766. The authors cite their own previous work, Robert C. Mainfort Jr. and Mary L. Kwas, "The Bat Creek Stone: Judeans in Tennessee?" Tennessee Anthropologist 16/1 (Spring 1991): 1-19. For the reply, see J. Huston McCulloch, "The Bat Creek Stone: A Reply to Mainfort and Kwas," Tennessee Anthropologist 18/1 (Spring 1993): 1-26.
  28. J. Huston McCulloch, "The Bat Creek Stone," on-line posting, December 2005. His reply was rejected for publication in American Antiquity where the original debate took place. It is available on-line in PDF.

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Question: What are the Burrows Cave artifacts and are they related to Mormonism?

Book of Mormon Central, KnoWhy #493: Why Should Latter-day Saints Beware Fraudulent Artifacts? (Video)

The Burrows Cave collection is a group of "artifacts" supposedly found in a cave in Illinois - These items are considered to be a hoax

The Burrows Cave collection is a group of "artifacts" supposedly found in a cave in Illinois, named after Russell Burrows, the person who initially found the cave. To this day, Burrows Cave enthusiasts have never demonstrated the existence of the cave. The artifacts contain many obvious hallmarks of modern manufacture, including the so-called "mystic symbol" found on artifacts in the Michigan artifacts collection. This is offered as evidence that the hoaxers deliberately meant to associate these artifacts with the Michigan collection. Some LDS people have fallen prey to those who push these artifacts as genuine.

There are no known caves in the proper area of Illinois--the geology isn't right

As one author notes, there are no known caves in the proper area of Illinois--the geology isn't right:

In the May 2012 issue of Public Archaeology, Joseph Wilson, a University of New Haven anthropologist, describes it as a phantasmagorical cave in southern Illinois that contains “life-sized solid-gold statues and a series of gigantic black stone statues in Egyptian and Carthaginian dress, solid gold sarcophagi and coffins containing mummies, stone sarcophagi, pagan idols, arsenals of bronze weapons, suits of armor ...” It goes on, but you get the idea.

Why haven’t you read about this amazing discovery in National Geographic? Burrows Cave has been largely ignored by archaeologists because there is no evidence to back up any of the extravagant claims made about the site.

In fact, Wilson observes that “there is no geological evidence of any caves” in that part of Illinois. Not surprisingly, the guy who claims to have discovered Burrows Cave has never allowed anyone else to see it. [1]

If we cannot confirm that a cave exists, and experts cannot even visit the cave, we ought to put no trust in its claims until they can be publicly demonstrated.

The Burrows Cave claims and artifacts should not be used as evidence of the Book of Mormon's account

Tablets that reportedly come from the cave are also not plausible:

Wilson says that thousands of inscribed stone tablets that were supposedly taken from the cave have been sold to “hopeful collectors and sympathetic research institutions such as the Midwestern Epigraphic Society in Ohio.”

Wilson says the tablets are obvious fakes. They include a weird mix of styles representing cultures separated by thousands of years. For example, one tablet has an image of an apparently Phoenician ship that is a carelessly copied, ridiculous mash up of two entirely different kinds of vessel — one end is the front of a warship with a ram, and the other is the front of a merchant ship with a carved animal-head at the prow. [2]

The Burrows Cave claims and artifacts should not be used as evidence of the Book of Mormon's account or of other aspects of ancient history.


Notes

  1. Bradley T. Lepper, Archaeology: Magic caves in Illinois and other archaeological myths, The Columbus Dispatch (4 March 2013).
  2. Lepper, "Magic caves"

Question: Are the Michigan Artifacts evidence for the Book of Mormon?

The "Michigan Artifacts" or "Michigan relics" are a group of "artifacts" produced by hoaxers in the late 19th century: They do not provide any evidence for the Book of Mormon

The "Michigan Artifacts" or "Michigan relics" are a group of "artifacts" produced by hoaxers in the late 19th century and around the turn of the 20th Century from Michigan. They wanted to produce "proof" of the existence of the ancient civilization known in 19th century lore as the Mound Builders. Many contain scenes from biblical stories. Some LDS members have been misled into believing that the artifacts are genuine. Not surprisingly, advocates of the Michigan artifacts also push the Burrows Cave collection.

Both LDS and non-LDS scholars have repeatedly demonstrated the fraudulent nature of the Michigan artifacts

Both LDS and non-LDS scholars have repeatedly demonstrated the fraudulent nature of the Michigan artifacts. [1] Among the first to do so was James E. Talmage, a trained scientist who met some of the forgers, demonstrated evidence of the forgeries, and preserved accounts of these things in his journal. [2] Talmage recorded that the stepdaughter of the man who discovered the relics:

...solemnly declared to me that she positively knows her step-father, James Scotford, has made, buried, and dug up many of the articles reported to be genuine archaeological relics. She gave circumstantial details, and agreed to sign a written statement with the proviso that such statement shall not be made public without her consent during the lifetime of her mother, Mrs. Jas. Scotford. [3]

Also, in August of 1911, Elder Talmage published a document containing his evidence called "The 'Michigan Relics': A Story of Forgery and Deception."

A more recent assessment of the Michigan artifacts was performed by LDS scientist Richard Stamps, and reported in BYU Studies. [4]

A separate line of evidence likewise demonstrates the the Michigan artifacts are of recent date. As one archaeologist explained:

...Thom Bell, a documentary filmmaker with access to some of these artifacts, submitted one of the clay tablets to the Luminescence Dating Laboratory at California State University, Long Beach.

Luminescence dating is a relatively new technique that can be applied to materials including sediment and ceramics. The method is based on the principle that charged particles, created by cosmic ray bombardment or the radioactive decay of certain elements in rocks and the soil, might become trapped within flaws in crystals.

The longer a crystal is exposed to these various sources of radiation, the more particles accumulate. When the crystals are exposed to direct sunlight, they are "bleached," meaning the reservoir of particles is emptied and the "hourglass" is reset.

When a clay tablet is manufactured, for example, crystals in the grit temper are exposed to light and bleached. But when the clay hardens, those crystals sealed inside the clay begin to accumulate charged particles once again.

Technicians can carefully remove those crystals and measure their luminescence to determine how long ago the clay tablet was made.

The results obtained by the CSU team are illuminating if not surprising. Assuming the tablet was buried for some part of its history, it was made at around AD 1905.

This is precisely the period when these bizarre objects were being planted in mounds and then "discovered" - sometimes by innocent dupes such as William C. Mills, former curator of archaeology for the Ohio Historical Society.

Although this result applies to one of the hundreds of "Michigan relics," it kills the idea that these things have any relevance to American prehistory. Instead, they are windows onto a period of American history when archaeology was in its infancy and numerous frauds were being used to promote various religious, political and personal agendas. [5]

The Michigan artifacts should not be used as evidence of the Book of Mormon's account or of other aspects of ancient history.


Question: Can the Newark "Holy Stones" be used as evidence to support the Book of Mormon?

We don't have the sort of details on their discovery that we would like to be able to verify some sort of authenticity

The are two main issues with artifacts of this sort. The first is the issue of discovery. While there are several interesting artifacts, we don't have the sort of details on their discovery that we would like to be able to verify some sort of authenticity. Most of them were discovered by an individual, who wasn't using any kind of modern archaeological standards. This allows for questions of fraud and hoax to enter into the picture (particularly when we combine it with the fact that such a discovery, if authenticated, would be absolutely huge by any archaeological standards). Related to this issue is that since we have developed more rigorous standards for doing archaeological excavations, we haven't continued to find additional examples of these kinds of artifacts. This further encourages the sense that they may have been a hoax. (This isn't to say that they are a hoax - just that the evidence is inconclusive). It also shows how difficult it is to date objects once they have been removed from their original setting. This is true of nearly any single object - and we have the same problems with artifacts in the old world that simply show up (particularly on the proverbial black market). Any artifact which turns up on its own without some kind of rigorous investigative process is considered suspect.

Even if they are valid, these artifacts are outside the time frame that would be helpful for validating the Book of Mormon

The second issue is more relevant to us as LDS members. These objects use what you can see labeled in the link as a "post-Exilic square Hebrew letters". In the reference to Cyrus Gordon, we have mention of the first text as a potential Samaritan mezuzah. These issues give us some idea of what to consider in terms of dates on the assumption that they are authentic. They would most likely come from the period of about 100-300 AD - potentially representing a group leaving Palestine sometime during or after the second Jewish revolt in the second century. This places these artifacts outside the time frame that would be helpful for validating the Book of Mormon (or determining Book of Mormon geography related issues). It would help us recognize another potential migration from the old world to the new world. But I think that as LDS we want to be careful in trying to suggest that this is potential evidence here for the Book of Mormon.



Notes

  1. Francis W. Kelsey, "Some Archaeological Forgeries from Michigan," American Anthropologist 10/8 (May 1908): 48–59; Francis W. Kelsy, "A Persistent Forgery," The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 33/1 (1911): 26–31; Stephen D. Peet, "A 'Stamp' Table and Coin Found in a Michigan Mount," The American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 15 (September 1894): 313.
  2. Frederick Starr, J.O. Kinnaman, and James E. Talmage, "The Michigan Archaeological Question Settled," The American Antiquairian and Oriental Journal 33, no. 3 (1911): 160–164.
  3. James E. Talmage, journal, June 1921; cited in Mark Ashurst-McGee, "Mormonism’s Encounter with the Michigan Relics," BYU Studies Quarterly 40, no. 3.
  4. Richard B. Stamps, "Tools Leave Marks: Material Analysis of the Scotford-Soper-Savage Michigan Relics," BYU Studies Quarterly 40, no. 3.
  5. Bradley T. Lepper, "New light shone on 'old relics'," The Columbus Dispatch (13 July 2009).

FairMormon has a review of some of the contents and tactics used by this presentation.

There are both brief executive summaries and more detailed information.

Other reviews

Blog posts

Other resources

  • Kristen Moulton, "Book of Mormon geography stirring controversy," Salt Lake Tribune (25 March 2010) off-site.
  • Michael De Groote, "Mormon geography conferences to compete this weekend," Deseret News (29 March 2010) off-site
  • Rod Meldrum/FIRM Foundation homepage off-site
  • LDS Promised Land off-site

Index of geographical claims made in the DVD DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography

The following tables respond to specific geographical claims made in the DVD. Only the geographical claims are treated here. For other issues related to this DVD and the presentation "Introduction to Book of Mormon Evidences," see the following:

A note about DNA claims

It is claimed in the DVD and associated seminars that criticisms related to DNA and the Book of Mormon have not been addressed by LDS scholars. This is incorrect. For a detailed discussion of DNA related claims, see the following:


Heartland (Meldrum) Geography claims


Notes