It’s been a long time since I discussed Book of Mormon Geography Theories. Every so often, I get an email from the FIRM Foundation. Basically Rodney Meldrum has proposed a theory in which he believes that Joseph Smith has indicated that Book of Mormon lands are in America’s Heartland. Meldrum believes that the Hopewell Indian mound builders are the ancestors of Book of Mormon peoples.
For skeptics, one of the biggest problems for the Book of Mormon is that no Hebrew or Egyptian writings have been found in the Americas. In Meldrum’s most recent newsletter (an update of the same information from 2012), Meldrum loudly trumpets a claim that indeed Hebrew writings have been confirmed. He references a History Channel program America Unearthed TV series, aired Nov. 30th, 2013. The episode references the Newark Holy Stones held in the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in Ohio.
These stones depict the 10 Commandments, and have been a suspected forgery since 1860. A man by the name of David Wyrick discovered the stones in a Hopewell Mound. Meldrum believes that the History Channel documentary featuring the stones bolsters his claims that they are authentic.
Why haven’t you heard more about them? Well, it does seem that many consider Scott Wolter, the host of America Unearthed less than credible. Brad Lepper of the Ohio Historical Society Archeaology Blog dismisses Wolter’s claims as “pseudoscience” and that the stones are authentic.
1. Not only has the inscription on the Decalogue Stone not passed the scrutiny of skeptics, no less an authority than the late Frank Moore Cross, Harvard University Professor of Near Eastern Languages, declared it to be a “grotesque” forgery. Jeff Gill has demonstrated that the archaic-looking Hebrew letters on the Decalogue Stone are based on the standard Hebrew alphabet used in the 19th century. It is a 19th century artifact made to look as if it were ancient.
My biggest problem with Meldrum’s theories is that he is overplays his own evidence and he doesn’t address the weaknesses of his own theory. For example, the Hopewell Indians are not nearly as sophisticated as the ancient Nephites. Meldrum also loves to quote Joseph Smith saying that the Lamanites were near Ohio–yet Meldrum does not address Smith’s statements that Joseph claimed ruins in Mexico, Guatemala, and the coast of South America were evidence of the Book of Mormon. Meldrum is just as guilty of pseudo-science as Wolter.
In the comments, Jeff Gill (another writer at the Ohio blog) states:
A number of diverse groups in 19th century Ohio could have been motivated to perpetrate such a forgery — from Mormons to Freemasons. That’s one of the reasons it has been so hard to solve the mystery of whodunnit. My colleague Jeff Gill and I have settled upon the opponents of the doctrine of polygenesis — and therefore opponents of slavery — as the most likely people behind the forgery. The Holy Stones appear to be tailor-made to address the particular arguments of Josiah Nott, the foremost proponent of polygenesis and defender of the institution of slavery. Read our article in the magazine “Timeline” (see the reference in the blog post) for the fullest presentation of our arguments.
I just don’t think the evidence is at all compelling for Meldrum’s model. Have you studied “the Heartland Model”? What do you think of the Newark Holy Stones?