The Legend of the Lost Book of Gold (Part 2 of 4)

by: KC Kern

October 11, 2011


This is part 2 of a 4 part series.  Context for this post is provided in part 1.

Geographic Correspondence

The Malay PeninsulaAt first glance the Malay Hypothesis’ most striking strong point is the peninsula’s correspondence to geographic features mentioned in the Book of Mormon text. The size and relative distances between various points are commensurable with those of the limited geography theories of Mesoamerica. The general contours of the coastline feature distinct southern and northern lands adjoined by a narrow neck—features that originally led the hemispheric model of the Americas to be the logical choice.

The narrow neck of land has long been the must-have feature of any Book of Mormon geography model. The text states that it took between 1–1.5 days by foot to traverse the narrow neck of land.17 Foot soldiers are known to cover 15-40 miles in a day.18 That places the acceptable range of the narrow neck’s width to around 19-50 miles wide. The narrow neck of the Malay Peninsula is between 30 and 40 miles, a far more suitable distance than Tehuantepec’s 130 miles, the Yucatan’s 190 miles, Eerie-Ontario’s 20 miles, or Lake Nicaragua’s 10 miles.19

The Nephite and Lamanite lands were reportedly divided by a “narrow strip of wilderness” in the vicinity of the headwaters of the river sidon.20 A prominent hill station named the “Cameron Highlands” spans west to east through Malaysia, and is situated south of the headwaters of the Kelantan river, a river system that creates a large river basin in the northeast quadrant of the peninsula’s main body.21 The geographic correspondence between the Kelantan river basin and the river Sidon of the land of Zarahemla is striking.

Tenah Merah / ZarahemlaAt the floodplain of the Kelantan river is a city called Tenah Merah. Anciently, Tenah Merah was the capital of a kingdom known to the Chinese Sui Dynasty as “Chi Tu,”22 which is likely the same as “Raktamaritika,” which was known to the Thai as one of the lost kingdoms of their history.23 Chronological evidence places Chi Tu around the year 600 AD,24 possibly making them a remnant of Zarahemla after the Nephite collapse. Dr. Olsen further draws attention to the orthographic correlation between the names “Tenah Merah” and “Zarahemla.” The variants between the two names are certainly no greater than those found between the English “William” and the french “Guillaume,” and if it stands the test of further scrutiny, this may well be considered an external corroborate on par with the NHM-Nahom connection of Yemen.25

Problems Solved

Perhaps the most appealing features of the Malay Hypothesis are those that deflect the considerable difficulties involved in attempting to place the Book of Mormon into pre-Columbian America.

TapirsIssues surrounding the flora and fauna described in the Book of Mormon have long been the subject of debate, and the impetus for reinterpretations or other creative solutions to match the text of the Book of Mormon to the known plant and animal landscape of the ancient New World.26 Domesticated barley and wheat have appeared only sparsely in paleoethnobotanical studies of pre-Columbian America,27 and the Book of Mormon is strangely silent with regards to the types of crops that would have been common to the area, such as chocolate, tomatoes, maize, or potatoes.

Likewise, great difficulty has been involved in locating any significant evidence for “the cow and the ox, and the ass and the horse, and the goat and the wild goat,”28 to say nothing of elephants or the cryptozoologic cureloms or cumoms.29 John Sorenson, seasoned Mormon scholar and early proponent of the Tehuantepec limited geography theory, has publicly bemoaned the overwhelming unlikeliness of locating Book of Mormon animals in the ancient New World without substantial reinterpretations of the text:

John SorensonWhat kind of animals did the Nephites have? The terms cattle, horses, sheep and so on are mentioned at several points in the Book of Mormon, in the Nephite record. And it is dismaying to some, some who wish to be dismayed, I believe, (and a few others who wish an answer could be provided) why there are not cows like we mean cows, horses like we mean horses, sheep like we mean sheep. The fact is, however, is that all the ancient studies say those animals simply were not present in the New World. Period. They were not here.

Well, 99.9% period. There is some little possibility of some horses as we know horses. The likelihood, however, is that we must go back to the text again, we see the internal having to articulate constantly with the external. We get some ideas from the internal, look outside, try to get enlightening, illuminating information, and then we may have to back into the text, and re-read it, and understand: “Let’s see now, when Mormon said this, what did really mean? Did he mean what I think he means? Or shall we read it the way he wrote it an meant it in his mind? We do not know that when he said ‘horse,’ he meant our kind of horse.30

Elephants in the Book of MormonFraming the Book of Mormon within the megadiverse biosphere of the Malay Peninsula virtually dissolves every one of these obstacles; it decreases the reliance on loose semantics, and doesn’t require holding out for the 00.1% chance Sorenson mentions. While cureloms and cumoms remain unidentified, the other animals (including elephants) as well as the crops that are so problematic for the ancient Americas, all become far less challenging.31 Likewise for issues of metallurgy: all manner of “iron, and of copper, and of brass, and of steel, and of gold, and of silver, and of precious ores, which were in great abundance” in Nephi’s promised land were also found in the Old World.32

LDS anthropologist Raymond Matheny, a professor at BYU, delivered a speech alongside University of Maryland archaeologist John Carlson in which he puts himself “in a non-Mormon’s professional shoes and talk[s] about the nature of the problems that the Book of Mormon poses for the archaeologist,”33 and goes on to comment on how Book of Mormon events seem more suitably placed in an Old World setting:

Ray T MathenyI would say in evaluating the Book of Mormon, it had no place in the New World whatsoever. And we’d have to look for the place of the Book of Mormon events to have taken place in the Old World. It just doesn’t seem to fit anything that he [John Carlson] has been taught in his discipline, nor I in my discipline in anthropology, history; there seems to be no place for it. It seems misplaced. It seems like these are anachronisms. It seems like the items are out of time and place, and trying to put them into the New World. And I think there’s a great difficulty here for we Mormons in understanding what this book is all about.34

Furthermore, the Book of Mormon’s embarrassing negative references to “skins of blackness”35 take on new possibilities in considering the presence of the Semang, an indigenous dark-skinned negroid ethnic group that existed on the Malay Peninsula.36 In the early years, those not adhering to the principles of marrying within the covenant (the followers of Laman, Lemuel, and the sons of Ishmael) would likely have intermixed with the pagan Semang, and received their designation as Lamanites, along with the physical characteristics that would have set apart their offspring.

Simon SouthertonAnother problem associated with the Book of Mormon that becomes far less pressing is that of DNA. Simon Southerton is a molecular biologist whose DNA analysis was nearly synchronous with the 2004 revision to the Book of Mormon’s official introduction, which had previously stated that Lamanites are the “principal ancestors” of the native people of the Americas.37 In his analyses, Southerton demonstrates the problems involved in ascribing Middle Eastern origins to the native Americans, and submits that the traditional understanding of the identity of the Lamanites does not correspond with the findings of modern science.38 Interestingly, however, Southerton does refer to some DNA research that hints at the possibility of a lost tribe of Israel reaching as far as the Bay of Bengal—which happens to adjoin the waters directly west of the Malay Peninsula.39

Scattering and Migrations

ScatteredOne very important component of Dr. Olsen’s Malay Hypothesis is that it takes a very expansive interpretation of Lehi’s words that state that his family “should be led with one accord into the land of promise, unto the fulfilling of the word of the Lord, that [they] should be scattered upon all the face of the earth.40 The proposed reading of this passage is that the descendants of Lehi would have continuously have been expanding outward, further “scatter[ing themselves] upon all the face of the earth.” Early Nephites,41 Hagoth and his people,42 disaffected Nephites during Helaman’s judgeship,43 Jacob and his faction,44 and doubtless others would have constituted this “scattering” to the land northward, to the “islands of the sea,”45 and beyond.

This corresponds to the Book of Mormon’s mentioning of a plurality of “lands of promise,”46 which would very well include the Americas: the continents more traditionally thought of as the “promised land.” Fittingly, leading anthropological research does in fact indicate that the islands of the Pacific were populated from west to east, and many populations found in the Pacific trace their origins to the Malay Archipelago.47

Dr. Michael Coe, a non-Mormon archaeologist of Mesoamerica who is well versed in the Book of Mormon, finds no compelling evidence to suggest that Old World contact with the Americas was Middle Eastern in origin. He is, however, agreeable to the possibility of Pacific Islanders and Southeast Asians having successfully reached America:

Michael CoeI’d like to say one thing now, is that… about this whole idea of contact between the Old World and the New World. I’m not entirely against the idea of transoceanic contacts, in fact, there’s beginning to be evidence for it. The leading scholar of this kind of stuff is a Mormon, a friend of mine, John Sorensen at BYU, who’s written extensively about this whole thing. Very interesting stuff. I mean, he’s a real scholar. I think that he’s again often looking in the wrong direction, but I think there’s pretty good evidence for contact between east Asia and Southeast Asia, not the middle East at all, but totally in another direction across the Pacific… As I say, I’m not against this kind of study. John Sorenson has really come up with some interesting stuff, but to me, it all points the eastern part of the Old world, of Eura—eastern Eurasia—that is: China and Southeast Asia in particular.48

Additionally, non-Mormon archaeologist Gordon Ekholm of the American Museum of Natural History, who has also had notable exposure to Book of Mormon archaeology, expressed his belief that “there may have been some historical connection between the peoples of Middle America and those of southern Asia, and thus indirectly with early peoples in the Near East.49

Accordingly, placing the setting of the Book of Mormon in Southeast Asia does not exclude the Americas from its designation as a land of promise. In fact, doing so may even add additional meaning to the words of Zenos, who said God will “remember the covenants which he made to their fathers. Yea, then will he remember the isles of the sea; yea, and all the people who are of the house of Israel, will [he] gather in… from the four quarters of the earth.”50 The connections and flow between Southeast Asia, the isles of the Pacific, and the American continents are illustrated in this map, again from Gladwin’s Men Out of Asia:51

Men Out of Asia, Page 245

To Be Continued…

Stay tuned for the remaining posts, in which the following topics will be addressed:

  • Part III
    • Moroni, the golden plates, Cumorah, and New York
    • Statements and teachings of Church leaders
    • “The former inhabitants of this continent”
    • The American Zion and the Promised Land

    Part IV

    • Concluding Observations
    • Ancient evidence for the Book of Mormon
    • Epilogue to the Legend of the Lost Book of Gold


  1. Alma 22:32, Helaman 4:6–7
  2. Janin, Hunt. Fort Bridger, Wyoming: Trading Post for Indians, Mountain Men, and Westward Migrants. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001. 108.
  3. Distances measured and calculated using Google Maps.
  4. Alma 22:27
  5. Frankham, Steve. Malaysia & Singapore. Bath: Footprint, 2008. 116.
  6. Mohamad, Zulkifli. “Evanescent Kingdoms, Everlasting Spirit, Seeking Langkasuka.” Journey To Kelantan. 2008. Accessed Sept. 2011 <>.
  7. Munro-Hay, S. C. Nakhon Sri Thammarat: the Archeology, History, and Legends of a Southern Thai Town. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus P, 2001. 19–22.
  8. Philippine Social Sciences and Humanities Reviews Vol. 24:1-2 (1959): 56-57
  9. Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. “New Light: Nahom and the “Eastward” Turn.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies Vol. 12:1 (2003): 111-112
  10. Lindsay, Jeff. “Book of Mormon Problems: Plants and Animals.” LDS FAQ: Mormon Answers. 10 July 2010. Accessed Sept. 2011 <>.
  11. Sorenson, John, and Robert Smith. “Chapter 36: Barley in Ancient America.” Reexploring the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Co., 1992.
  12. 1 Nephi 18:25
  13. Ether 9:18-19
  14. Sorenson, John L. “The Book of Mormon in Ancient America.” Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies Lecture Series. Provo. 1992.
  15. Richmond, Simon. Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei. Footscray, Vic.: Lonely Planet, 2004. 63-82.
  16. 2 Nephi 5:15. See also: Maddin, Robert. The Beginning of the Use of Metals and Alloys Papers. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press, 1988.
  17. Hamblin, William J. “Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon.” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2:1 (1989): 161-197.
  1. Matheny, Raymond T. “Book of Mormon Archaeology: What Does the Evidence Really show?” Sunstone Symposium. 25 Aug. 1984.Provo, Utah: Maxwell Institute, 1993
  2. 2 Nephi 5:15
  3. Schliesinger, Joachim. Ethnic Groups of Thailand: Non-Tai-speaking Peoples. Bangkok: White Lotus P, 2000. 127.
  4. Smith, Joseph. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. New York: Doubleday, 2004.
  5. Southerton, Simon G. Losing a Lost tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2004. 118.
  6. Jones, Steve. In the Blood: God, Genes, and Destiny. London: Harper Collins, 1996. 161-63.
  7. 1 Nephi 10:13
  8. Jarom 1:6
  9. Alma 63:7-10
  10. Helaman 3:8
  11. 3 Nephi 7:12-13
  12. 2 Nephi 29:11
  13. 2 Nephi 9:2, 2 Nephi 24:2
  14. Rivers, W. H. R., and Grafton Elliot Smith. Psychology and ethnology. London: Routledge, 1999. 254.
  15. Coe, Michael. “An Outsider’s View of Book of Mormon Archaeology.” Interview by John Dehlin. Audio blog post. Mormon Stories. 18 Aug. 2011. Accessed Sept. 2011 <>.
  16. Ekholm, Gordon F. “Letter to Thomas Ferguson.” Letter. 26 Apr. 1951. Furgusson Collection, BYU, Provo, UT. Quoted in Larson, Stan. Quest for the Gold Plates: Thomas Stuart Ferguson’s Archaeological Search for the Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: Freethinker Press in association with Smith Research Associates, 1996. 71.
  17. 1 Nephi 19:16
  18. Gladwin, Harold S. Men out of Asia. New York: Whittlesey House, 1947. 245.

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53 Responses to The Legend of the Lost Book of Gold (Part 2 of 4)

  1. prometheus on October 11, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    And this is what has convinced me – the Malay theory ties in so well with the evidence that exists, as opposed to looking madly for stuff in the New World that simply doesn’t appear to be there.

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  2. MH on October 11, 2011 at 9:24 PM

    KC, great stuff! Since you mentioned DNA, I wanted to add one other thing that may be of interest. Back in 2008, I posted about a video by Simcha Jacobovici called “Quest for the Lost Tribes.” Jacobovici is a journalist, not a scientist, and has some other controversial works like “the Lost Tomb of Jesus” and has done some work on the Exodus.

    Anyway, in Quest, he claims to have found a group of Jewish ancestry with Cohen DNA .

    I’ve got a post about Cohen DNA (and Simon Southerton commented), and the Lost Tribes showing that Jacobovici also believes that the Tribe of Manasseh is related to the Bnei Manashe (of Burma.) This seems to be an astounding coincidence in support of Olsen, IMO. If Manasseh is there, then it could confirm Lehi’s story and lineage.

    I know that the National Geographic Genome Project is supposed to investigate these claims about the Bnei Manashe (Manasseh), but I haven’t heard of any results. Have you?

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  3. hawkgrrrl on October 11, 2011 at 10:29 PM

    There is something appealing about “isles of the sea” not being stretched to refer to the American continent. While Columbus may have thought he was in India, God certainly knew the difference (as did JS).

    The geographical, animal, and DNA evidence are very strong in favor of this theory.

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  4. Mike S on October 12, 2011 at 1:46 AM

    This is very interesting. I like thinking “outside the box”.

    One question for whoever: It’s too late to look up the quote, but I remember hearing that Joseph Smith used to tell his family stories about the inhabitants of the Americas and suggested that they were Nephites, etc. I would assume that if he were translating the BofM that he would at least have an inkling of WHERE to BofM took place. How might that be reconciled? Thanks.

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  5. hawkgrrrl on October 12, 2011 at 2:12 AM

    Mike S – personally I think JS knowing where it took place points more to authorship than translation. Him getting it wrong would be stronger evidence he was not the author.

    He does lose some credibility on the Zelph story, too, but he kind of does any way you slice it.

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  6. joshua whelpley on October 12, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    really looking forward to the next section. so far everything seems to work.

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  7. BOMG on October 12, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    This fails to advance our understanding of the field of BoM geography. You’re using other peoples arguments that, if were conceded to Olsen, would be a blessing to the BoM and its believers how exactly?

    America is Zion and endorsing either directly or indirectly a model outside of her government’s boundaries is fighting against Zion.

    For example, conveniently ignored are FULFILLED LAND PROPHECIES. Is there a reason not to use this spiritual ruler to measure a spiritual book?

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 1

  8. Morgan D on October 12, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    Thanks KC this was very interesting. I agree that the weakenesses of the Mesoamerican model become the strength of the Malay model. But I checked out the map and their city placement seems odd. I will need to see more information behind their placement and their correlation with archological records. For example Moroni’s camp is placed north and west of Zarahelma which makes no sense if the action is south and east of the city.

    Plus, what is the etymology (sp) of Tenah Merah? How can we check if it isn’t just a lucky coincidence. (From what I understand about languages you can find about 10% of words that correlate between languages just by luck.)

    I also don’t think the terminology for plants and animals is as damanging as you think since there are many other things that do correlate with Mesoamerican politics, society, and warfare. For example Brant Gardner has listed about 100 convergences.

    But maybe these are answered in the next couple posts. Thanks again for posting this.

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  9. KC Kern on October 12, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    Mo Heretic,
    I had not heard of the Bnei Menashe, but I just read up a bit on If they do indeed turn out to be of the tribe of Menassah, that would indeed be a stunning discovery in light of all this.

    Mike S,
    Joseph Smith’s (and others’) views about who the Book of Mormon people were in relation to the native Americans is addressed in Part 3. Stay tuned!

    I would submit to you that the designation of the political boundaries of the USA as the singular prophesied Promised Land is not as unassailable as you put forth. The issue of what/where the promised land(s) are in relation to the Book of Mormon prophesies (“conveniently ignored” in this Part 2) is addressed in Part 3. I hope you will join the conversation with your input when it goes live next week. And for the record, I do not “endorse” the Malay Hypothesis explicitly, but I do believe it deserves a ‘seat at the table,’ ought to be considered more thoughtfully, and has some surprisingly strong points that many other theories lack.

    Morgan D,

    First, the map you visited is also put together by myself. I have been curating maps of various geography theories, Malay Hypothesis included. It doesn’t reflect any archaeological correlation, but is rather like a chess board that I continually revise. Accordingly, I have updated the location of Moroni’s camp based on your astute observation. If you have better location suggestions for the various lands and cities, please do share (but not on this thread.)

    As for Tenah Merah, the name apparently means “red earth,” or ‘soil rich in iron and aluminium’. The etymology persists in the Chinese (“Chi Tu”) and the Thai (“Raktamrittika”) renderings of the name. I don’t think the meaning of the name does much to strengthen the case for the Book of Mormon, except possibly to shed some background on the red markings the Amlicites adorned themselves with in Alma 3. Admittedly, this very well could be a lucky spelling coincidence, or just the human mind finding order out of chaos. It is nonetheless interesting that this name shows up right where (according to this hypothesis) it should be: the major city (and ancient capitol) in a prominent river basin south of a narrow neck of land. If such a name turned up in Chiapas Mexico, I doubt many apologists would be pulling the coincidence card.

    It is true that the plant and animal issues are not insurmountable for American placements of the Book of Mormon. They do, however, require the types of appeals-to-the-unlikely, textual reinterpretations, or general re-framings that are rendered entirely unnecessary in the Malay Hypothesis. I will agree with you that Brant Gardner has done phenomenal work in trying to find Mesoamerica in the Book of Mormon with his analysis of societal indications.

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  10. BOMG on October 12, 2011 at 3:06 PM

    Very well, in your next treatise I hope you bring a greater degree of attention to:

    a. At least the points addressed by Joseph Fielding Smith regarding Cumorah.

    b. Fulfilled LAND prophecies, when/where.

    Had you done your homework regarding point a. before you started you could have saved yourself a lot of effort on something that is untenable. Someone is going to look silly, no offense.

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 2

  11. prometheus on October 12, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    BOMG, I have to say, you are taking a pretty aggressive tone here. I am all for the expression of diverse viewpoints, but I am very much not in favor of verbal aggression.

    I also have to say that your statement “America is Zion and endorsing either directly or indirectly a model outside of her government’s boundaries is fighting against Zion,” comes across as rather insulting to those of us building Zion in other countries.

    Something to ponder, perhaps.

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  12. Kent on October 12, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    In 1Nephi 13:12 it is usually taught that the “…man among the Gentiles…” is Christopher Columbus (just had a class on it last Sunday in fact). In this scenario it would have to be someone else. Any ideas?

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  13. KC Kern on October 12, 2011 at 5:38 PM


    As described in the last section of this post, the Americas are not excluded from a designation of “land of promise” upon which the “seed of [Nephi’s] brethren might have been. That could accommodate Columbus as this “man among the Gentiles” in this scenario, although there is probable cause to challenge the long-standing assumption that Columbus is in fact this man among the gentiles.

    Colombus and other american promised-land issues are discussed further in Part 3.

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  14. MH on October 12, 2011 at 11:42 PM

    KC, Prometheus, and other interested parties. I’ve already discussed BOMG and his friend BOMC’s theory a few years ago. This is standard operating procedure for them. They love to attack, but don’t see the MAJOR holes in their own theory. I’ve been down this road before, and their theory is a dead end, and their manners are equally poor. Just FYI.

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  15. BOMG on October 13, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    @promo “I am all for the expression of diverse viewpoints”


    “comes across as rather insulting to those of us building Zion in other countries”

    Seems contradictory to me, but I’m not stuck reshuffling the same ole peas all the while shinning zero additional light in the field.

    @Ksee, the fruit of incorporating statements by G.A.’s is not good. On the other hand, models based solely on the BoM are wonderfully congruent.

    @MH, you don’t have to make this personal. As for your accusations, grow up, I’m trying to help the field of Book of Mormon geography and so far your like a heeler, nipping at the heels of others. Have you contributed anything of note since we last spoke???

    Controversial! What do you think? Thumb up 0

  16. MH on October 13, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    BOMG, where have you expressed diverse viewpoints? You beat the same note constantly (yours is the best and everybody else has not “done your homework”), but I have discussed pros and cons of many theories. My recent post from Sept 26 discussed KC’s website which showed Google maps of the Malay Theory, the Baja Theory, Peru,  and the Great Lakes Theory.  KC has added the Sri Lanka Theory, as well as Rodney Meldrum’s Heartland Theory and the more conventional Central American Theory. I’m also impressed that he has Lehi’s route in the Arabian Peninsula (which seems to have more credibility than some of the other theories.)

    Have you bothered to address any of the weaknesses in your theory that I spent 4 posts addressing?

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  17. BOMG on October 13, 2011 at 12:01 PM

    It is not possible to see more than others when you are standing on the same ground.

    Does your arrogance have bounds?

    You presume to criticize the work of others and discount the statements by Joseph Fielding Smith? Who do you think you are?

    Stop pontificating, have some humility and do the work:

    a. Check yourself why are you interested in the topic.

    b. Be honest with yourself, what preconceived notions has biased your outlook?

    c. Analyzing the text ALONE since it preceeded everyone.

    d. Extract an Internal Map.

    e. Extract the fulfilled land prophecies.

    f. Choose a physical location.

    g. Then, you are qualified to critique the work of others.

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  18. Mormon Heretic on October 13, 2011 at 2:32 PM


    Does your arrogance have bounds?

    You presume to criticize the work of others and discount the statements by Joseph Fielding Smith? Who do you think you are?

    Stop pontificating, have some humility and do the work:

    a. Check yourself why are you interested in the topic.

    b. Be honest with yourself, what preconceived notions has biased your outlook?

    c. Analyzing the text ALONE since it preceeded everyone.

    d. Extract an Internal Map.

    e. Extract the fulfilled land prophecies.

    f. Choose a physical location.

    g. Then, you are qualified to critique the work of others.

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  19. prometheus on October 13, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    Hmm, I see what you mean, MH. :(

    I will say that I am really looking forward to part 3. I agree with hawkgrrrl that JS not getting everything right in his assumptions about the BofM makes the case for his non-authorship pretty strong.

    I love how so much work has been done on the BofM recently. I think that we are just beginning to take this book seriously and look at it for what it is. Skousen, Hardy, Gardner and others are really opening up some powerful new ways of engaging with the text and it just grand! :)

    I think it is good to set aside preconceived notions and look at it with fresh eyes, whatever those notions are. I find that I gain far more insight by doing that than by just reading thoughtlessly.

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  20. FireTag on October 13, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    We all look at the BofM geographic theories with biases from our specialties. I’m sure, for example, can say a lot more about how a long, thin territory like Malay fits in a book whose military campaigns never involve shipping troops by boats along the coast.

    I tend to look at geophysics first, because there is a geophysical event clearly anchored in the BofM and dated to about 30 AD. After all, we are looking for the Church of Jesus Christ, not the Church of Nephi. The BofM is pointless without the crucificion catastrophe, the appearance of Jesus, and the subsequent conversion of people.

    As I wrote here:

    it probably takes multiple simultaneous volcanic eruptions to produce the effects described in the BofM. Certain kinds of damages scale with distance differently from others.

    It should be easy to eliminate the possibility of simultaneous eruptions among the volcanos located where needed in the Meso theory. In fact, there are only two candidate periods that can NOT be eliminated in the past 8,000 years — but one of them covers 30 AD.

    The Malay Penn. has NO volcanoes that have erupted since the last ice age (10,000 years). We’ve seen the largest earthquake that can be produced anywhere in the region (in 2004) — and the faults are on the WRONG side of Sumatra and much to far away to do the deed in Malay.

    So I think Malay solves some geographic problems at the expense of making far less ambiguous problems much worse.

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  21. FireTag on October 13, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    Sorry. in my last comment I erased Morgan’s name in correcting a comma. Morgan is the ancient Asian military expert.

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  22. MH on October 14, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    Mike S,

    I forgot to answre your question, which is a common one. Here’s what I wrote on my blog about Malay,

    If the Book of Mormon lands are in Asia, then Joseph’s account that the Book of Mormon contains a record of the inhabitants of the American continent, then Malay is clearly not. Joseph Smith History 1:34 “[Moroni] said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.”

    a. Olsen’s argument emphasizes it differently, instead emphasizing “and the source from whence they sprang.” He says the Source is the Malay Peninsula, and that is how to overcome this apparent discrepancy. I can see his point, but I know that is not a traditional understanding of that scripture, and I’m not sure I buy it.

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  23. Voni on October 15, 2011 at 8:34 PM

    My mother (Ralph’s wife) has been in the hospital and he has been distracted. I’d like to thank those who are discussing his theory.

    I think he would say that there have been at least two very violent volcanic eruptions Krakatowa & Tambora (sp?) near Malaysia that were so violent & loud they were even heard in Australia. He has also found record of very little happening in America (Mesoamerica) at the time of Christ’s passing. No deaths, very tiny earthquake with no damage… etc.

    And remember the Karens & their beliefs.

    Thanks for pointing out that the similarity to Zarahemla being a coincidence is not that likely because it is also in the right location…AND there are other names of other places in the right locations. If the Meso people could find even one name that was similar they would be shouting it from the roof tops (like the NHM–which isn’t even in Meso).

    It is amazing to me that some insist it is in America (USA) when Meso isn’t in USA… Remember Joseph was under the impression that it took place in all of North & South America… and current scholars have decided it couldn’t have been that large an area so have narrowed it down. Perhaps it is time to change focus again?

    If you are concerned about Columbus being the man among the Gentiles… I believe Columbus never made it to America– not Meso America or the United States.

    Have you seen the maps put together by Clark & Washburn separately (that they made describing what the BofM lands should look like–while reading the BofM) ?

    KC, you are doing a wonderful job. Thank you very much.

    Ralph has more points to add to a new book I need to get published for him. He has another book on Cosmology to be ready soon.

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  24. FireTag on October 15, 2011 at 9:34 PM


    The problem is not the size of the eruption, but the timing and the location. As I wrote in the article I linked above the BofM describes multiple volcanic effects that do NOT scale the same with distance; e.g., ash clouds can be global in reach, but pyroclastic flows are not.

    There is certainly dated evidence for volcanic eruptions in Meso-America going back thousands of years. And one of the two times that the possibility of simultaneous eruptions in the areas suggested by Meso is still below the level of uncertainty covers 30 AD. But there has been no holocene volcanic eruption on the Malay penn.

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  25. BOMG on October 15, 2011 at 9:47 PM

    It’s sad to see another deluded individual spending countless hours defending what was espoused by their enemies in the first place, i.e. volcanoes. That’s as bad as Meldrum who claims an animal migration pattern off of a single God pronounced drought. Or a weather pattern off of a single reference to running armies who claimed they felt hot. Or how about the Narrow Neck being “1.5 days wide” nonsense being perpetuated here and in every other model. It’s nonsense, no offense, but in all due respect, there are over a hundred models already and unless a person comes at it without bias, they’ll do nothing but stroke the ego.

    What bias? Ask your husband (when he feels better) to answer these questions along with other pontificators on this site the following:

    a. Are you a believer the Book of Mormon?

    b. Do you believe as those closest to Joe Smith that he was a fallen prophet?

    c. When there is a contradiction between what the Book of Mormon says and what Joe said, on whose side do you fall?

    d. What drove you to have an interest in the field of BoM geography? Was it a:

    1. Reaction to someone’s model?

    e. Why did you pick the physical place for your model? Did you:

    1. Serve there in the military?
    2. Serve there as a missionary?
    3. Job assignment?
    4. Friends or family live or visited there?
    5. Vacation there?

    f. Have you had ANY “spiritual” guidance in any what shape or form?

    g. Do you have a financial interest in your endeavor, immediately or down the road?

    h. Do you feel “compelled” in your interest?

    i. If you dropped the subject altogether what could you replace the effort with?

    j. Do you believe there are consequences for spouting theories as truth that can mislead gullible Latter-day Saints?

    k. Are you aware that you will be judged by how your efforts further confused the field thus turning investigators off?

    l. How do you feel about the warning that “ANY model outside of the boundaries of the government of the United States of America is fighting against Zion”?

    m. Do you care what legacy you’re going to leave to your children and grandchildren on earth and in the records of heaven?

    n. What would it take for you to leave the field altogether, and with a peace of mind?

    o. If Moroni visited you tonight and told you your model was wrong how would remedy the harm you have caused thus far?

    p. When you stand before God with BoM prophets at the bar, are you confident you will not be on your face begging for forgiveness?

    q. And now after being warned and if you continue to stir the same peas and endorse models outside the boundaries of the government of the United States of America, and when you are on your face begging for forgiveness, do you not believe it will be too late?

    Finally, to those who choose to kick against the pricks, know that:

    a. Joe and Oliver both proclaimed in the first official history of the church that the final battles took place in Palmyra.

    b. Because Omner walked from his Jaredite home past where “the Nephites were destroyed” that confirms BoM lands were in THAT vacinity.

    And everything else President Joseph Fielding Smith included in his defense of ONE Cumorah.

    Regarding the volcano card, study the Book, it says what occurred at the coming of Jesus had “never before been known.”

    Stop demeaning the power of God and how prophecy was fulfilled by claiming they were:

    a. Done by a random act of nature.
    b. Requiring for a model.

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  26. Tim on October 16, 2011 at 12:45 PM

    I think its great that people explore outside the box. Otherwise we would still believe that the Sun orbits the Earth.

    It’s unfortunate that an honest discussion of new ideas makes some individuals defensive and contentious when all that is expected is a spirit of exploration and discovery, along with perhaps a spirit of charity and understanding.

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  27. Voni on October 16, 2011 at 1:08 PM

    BOMG Did you read what I wrote? My husband is not sick. I do not have a “model” so have not spent tons of time researching one. I would not have a problem with any of your questions. What are your answers to your questions?

    Thanks to all who take the time to “think outside the box.” I do not think everything out of a Prophet’s mouth is from God. For example: If he tells his wife he would like sloppy joes for dinner… I doubt if God had anything to do with it. A Prophet is also a “Man” and has opinions and could even misunderstand something. If he is praying for an answer to something specific, and Heavenly Father thinks it is the time for him to have the answer, he will receive the answer…

    I think you were right (hawkgrrl?) that if Joseph got something wrong, it was because he misunderstood something someone else wrote or said to him… It proves he was not the author, he did not make the BofM up.

    Firetag, since I haven’t done the research, I’m not sure of times… but it seems like it is more probable that something occurred in the Malay area that could spew clouds of black to darken the skies & tsunamis, & violent earthquakes in that area… Not sure what Ralph found…

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  28. Voni on October 16, 2011 at 1:13 PM

    I believe in one Cumorah. I do not think it is in NY. Mormon placed his plates in the Hill Cumorah–place of the final battles– and Moroni LEFT with some of the plates. (Mormon 6:6) Moroni’s plates could be anywhere in the world. Mormon’s plates should be in a hill with many arrow heads? some sort of war weapons… swords? lots of skeletons? Has any of that sort of thing been found near the hill in NY? Moroni did not call it the Hill Cumorah to Joseph….

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  29. Ray on October 16, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    This thread shows why I am not opposed to banning some (very few) people from commenting. I won’t feed the troll.

    I also believe that, once we step outside the assumption box, lots of opportunities open up that we simply have ignored previously. In that light, I posted the following last week on my personal blog:

    “Learning from Others Who See Things in Very Different Ways” (

    The central quote is:

    “You do find, every once in a while, someone who has actually thought about the same problem in a very different way” — and that can be the most important sort of catalyst: the kind that leads to new discoveries.” (Harvard Magazine)

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  30. Ray on October 16, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    One more quote a friend once told me, for which I don’t have an original source:

    “I think you learn more when you are less certain you know the right answer already.”

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  31. Voni on October 16, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Wow, those are excellent quotes Ray. Ralph has been thinking of things in different ways all of his life. When he was working on his Master’s or Doctorate (I forget which) He questioned an accepted scientific theory and then proved it wrong. His mentor teacher told him he must be wrong and had another student do the same research and found out that Dad was right… He has found ways to make crops grow better in drought stricken areas and all sorts of things. He is a very smart man and quite a thinker. He has written a new book which questions Cosmlogists version of the universe which fits in with Mormon beliefs. It is easker now adays to question science than it was in Galilieo’s time. But still, regularly accepted beliefs are hard to overcome. In science, if one finds just one thing wrong with a regularly accepted theory it is a reason to revisit it. Ralph has 200 reasons why his Malay theory works over the regularly accepted Meso Theory. Thanks so much for discussing it in an open minded manner.

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  32. Voni on October 16, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Ray: You are right. I think all of the great discoveries were made when someone put a couple (few?) things together that no one thought to do before. Someone thought outside the box.

    KC you are right that if the BofM is the most correct book, why are we making up excuses for the names of animals or directions, etc?

    Heretic: I didn’t realize that Simon Southerton had written to you about DNA. That is great that he did. Thanks for bringing up “and the source from whence they sprang.” All of the gold plates were not translated. They were taken away from JS. So Perhaps he only translated the parts occuring in “the source from whence they sprang.” Only up to the time Moroni left (last battles) with the plates and traveled quickly (escaping) & who knows what route… toward a place they named “Moroni….”

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  33. Vicky on October 16, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    In our Stake is a man named Duane Aston, he wrote several books on the geography and is well educated. He has hiked the Palmyra area for years and compiled a great many evidences of ancient warfare there. Did Olsen walk the lands in his model does anyone know?

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  34. Vicky on October 16, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    This is the web site for Dr. Duane Aston:

    Even though his model has been existence since 1991, for some reason FAIR has refused to review or include it in their list:

    His model deserves review because it preceeded Olsen’s and conforms to church teachings. Would one of you please review Aston’s model?

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  35. FireTag on October 16, 2011 at 5:41 PM


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  36. Mormon Heretic on October 16, 2011 at 6:18 PM

    BOMG, I have avoided talking about your theory because it is SOOOOO BAD, and you didn’t bother to answer any of the weaknesses I pointed out the last time (and I gave you 5 posts.) But, perhaps I will blog about it here in the next few weeks, so everyone can see how bad it is. Then you won’t have to threadjack this post. Does that suit you?

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  37. savvyness on October 16, 2011 at 6:21 PM

    Thank you for this series of articles on the Malay theory. I have enjoyed reading the comments and seeing so much interest.

    Against my better judgement, I feel compelled to respond to BOMG on a personal level. Ralph is my grandpa and I feel like BOMG is attempting to attack my grandpa’s character, instead of questioning the theory itself. The theory stands on its own, for anyone to question or ponder… but what I don’t appreciate is BOMG’s assumption that Ralph has some hidden agenda or is attempting to corrupt truth.

    As I read through the accusatory list of questions my grandpa should “ask himself”, I found it quite humorous that he would most likely answer them completely opposite from the way BOMG assumes he would.

    Being his granddaughter, I can assure you that he has no need to worry about the legacy he is leaving to me or anyone else in our family. The legacy he leaves is one of curiosity, hard work and diligence, an open mind… and most importantly a strong testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Perhaps the most laughable accusation is your belief that he has a financial interest in his endeavor. You couldn’t be farther from the truth. Its times like these, when his research is being considered and questioned… that I see a light in his eyes and hear an excitement in his voice. He has no vested interest in the Malay theory, either financially or the actual physical location. He is a scientist. A retired scientist that has never given up his love for research, or given up his quest for knowledge. Searching for truth gives him a purpose… a way to make his life more meaningful and fulfilling. He loves the fact that his theory has gained interest, and is being questioned and tested.

    Lastly, you question whether my grandpa has had:

    “ANY “spiritual” guidance in any what shape or form”

    … as if you don’t believe that he is entitled to personal revelation. My grandpa has followed the same council as Joseph Smith did, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…” and the Malay theory has unfolded before him. As he searched, pondered, and prayed, each new piece of information continued to build, and confirm his prior findings. He does not believe that the actual location needs to be found in order for the book to be true, he knows The Book of Mormon is true regardless of where it took place. The subject has been both interesting and fascinating to him for a long time, and he is just happy for his findings to be of interest to others.

    Attack and/or disprove the theory if you wish, but please don’t make assumptions about Ralph’s intentions or character.

    I truly appreciate all of the other comments and questions that this article has produced. Thank you again for your interest.

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  38. Voni on October 16, 2011 at 8:48 PM

    Church teachings? The church does not claim to know where the BofM took place.

    The BYU people/FARMS will not review Olsen’s theory either. Someone pointed out that is good. If they could find anything wrong with it they would surely publish something negative about it. Tell Dr. Aston that. It might make him feel better.

    Dr. Olsen has not been to Malaysia. He spent the early 90’s trying to get someone in the church to send someone to find out more about the area before he published his theory… It seems to me that it would take much more more than just walking around an area to prove a theory. I am interested to know about the instances of warfare there near Palmyra. I will go read his site.

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  39. James on October 18, 2011 at 1:27 AM

    1. This post is fascinating! I can’t wait for the third installment.

    2. BOMG, you’re being pretty cranky. It’s fine if you reject the theory presented here, but you don’t need to be so nasty about it. I think President Hinckley’s words are relevant here: “we can politely disagree without being disagreeable. We can acknowledge the sincerity of those whose positions we cannot accept.”

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  40. BOMG on October 18, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    “don’t feed the troll”

    “personal attack”

    “your mean”

    Answer the questions, is that so hard? Yes I have answered them, why else would challenge the pontificators to answer them?

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  41. Mormon Heretic on October 18, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    Ok, BOMG, I’ll give you a platform next week. I checked your website yesterday, and it’s down. Were you aware of that?

    Now you can start answering questions instead of asking them. Let’s see how many people you attack (or ignore.) I hope you’re ready.

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  42. BOMG on October 18, 2011 at 8:23 AM

    Why would anyone care what you thought about a particular model? You don’t have one of your own. Stop nipping at the heels of others, do the work and show us your intellect – create the three models, or at least two.

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  43. Mormon Heretic on October 18, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    So you’re saying that nobody is allowed to comment on a model unless they have a model?

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  44. BOMG on October 18, 2011 at 9:43 PM

    If you are unable to produce a model what qualifies you to judge a model?

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  45. mh on October 19, 2011 at 6:28 AM

    you will see next week. let’s see if you can answer some basic questions about your model. my guess is that you will be evasive and get mad.

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  46. BOMG on October 19, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    That’s what I thought, no acumen at all. I’ll not play your game of cat and mouse to placate your need for attention.

    Bloggers (and readers), you should be aware that Heretic has an agenda to push the Islamic State theory as he did with his first blogger post back in 08:

    I suggest the choir think twice who they are in bed with.

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  47. Mormon Heretic on October 19, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    Wow, BOMG. My mouth is wide open in astonishment. You are amazing. I don’t know what you’re smoking if you think I pushed an Islamic State. But I know from your website that you love to misquote and twist evidence: A Wolly Mammoth from 10000 BC is the same as a Jaredite elephant, and carbon dating is wrong, and Lake Tonowanda was still in existence in 600 BC even though science shows it was extinct 10000 years ago.

    I guess there is no need to discredit you, when you’re so good at discrediting yourself. Have a nice life!

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  48. Ralph on October 22, 2011 at 5:23 PM

    In science we try to encourage thought and to obtain evidence which will either provide support or skepticism of proposed hypotheses. Thanks to those who have contributed in providing evidence of relevance to the Malay Hypothesis. Some of the arguments need further inquirey and much time and unbiased effort. Rather than critisize each other, I would like to recommend that each of us select a topic dealing with the Land of Promise and contribute a section based upon more than preconceived notions regarding the truth of the matter. Copies of the written report would be submitted to unbiased scholars and those worthy of further consideration would be presented in a future blog. Perhaps KC Kearn? or Mormon Heretic? would help organize the project. Thanks to all for your efforts. They were appreciated.

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  49. Mormon Heretic » Malay Revisited on November 5, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    […] missionaries taught a group called the Karens that already worshiped a god called Y’wa.  Part 2 discusses the actual theory in more depth.  Part 3 discusses common objections to the theory, and Part 4 gives a conclusion to […]

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  50. Brandon on November 15, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    This is a very intriguing hypothesis. However, as with any hypothesis OR theory, only one evidence is required to nullify it. I was beginning to accept this hypothesis until I found SEVERAL evidences from within the Book of Mormon itself. Nephi saw in vision the coming of the English to the promised land and invading the “seed of [his] brethren” and the subsequent American Revolutionary War. Now, it could be argued that what Nephi saw was actually parallel events happening in the Malay Peninsula. But toward the end of the Book of Mormon, in the Book of Ether I found the death blow verses for the Malay Model: Ether 13:4-6. Here we read that it was revealed to Ether that the New Jerusalem would be built “upon this land” (referring to the land in which Ether lived) in the last days. The Tenth Article of Faith, which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints holds to be doctrine and canonized scripture, states “…Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent”. There is no other way to interpret these verses coupled together than that Lehi’s promised land was and is the American – not southeast Asia.

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  51. hawkgrrrl on November 15, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    Brandon – I agree with you that the thorniest part of this hypothesis relates to assumptions about the American continent and destiny. “Mother Gentiles” could be the Chinese who repeatedly migrated to the Malay peninsula, for example. And if you consider the human influence of separate revelators / authors, it’s possible that JS’s biases are reflected in AoF 10. After all, the articles of faith are not revelation. They were Joseph Smith’s reply to Mr. Wentworth’s question about what Mormons believed. Joseph Smith’s familiarity with the BOM often seems to be not as strong as most of ours is today.

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  52. Brandon on November 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    Hawkgrrrl – That’s a good point you bring up. I hadn’t really considered Joseph’s biases in the AofF. An unfortunate thing that exists within our LDS culture is accepting ANYTHING a prophet says simply because he is a prophet. But that is precisely what they have told us NOT to do! We are to seek the confirmation of the Holy Ghost that we may gain a testimony of their words. This is what is meant by planting the seed, or the word in Alma 32. So I think you may be on to something about AofF 10. I admit that the whole elephant thing really whacks out almost every other hypothesis! The Great Lakes proponents attempt to explain it with the wooly mammoth, but fossil evidence shows that the youngest known specimens are much older than 4,000 years old, when the Jaredites arrived in the promised land.

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  53. KC Kern on November 16, 2012 at 11:08 AM


    There are legitimate issues found in the text that challenge non-American proposals. Did you catch the “Zion and the Promised Land” section of part III? Some of those issues are addressed there.

    The trouble with saying any one factor is a deal-breaker or a deathblow is that uncompromising interpretations generally disqualify any and all proposals, including the American ones.

    I’ve found that it can also be limiting to carry around the presuppositions that bring to the text and read into the narrative. Is the “man among the Gentiles” unavoidably Christopher Columbus? Are the “many waters” unquestionably the Atlantic Ocean? Is the “seed of [Nephi’s] brethren” forcibly Native Americans?

    To quote Joseph Smith (out of context,) “if it is, there is a great defect in the book, or else it would have said so.”

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