Book of Mormon/Geography/Church position

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The Church's position on questions related to Book of Mormon geography

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Question: Is there an "official" or revealed Book of Mormon geography?

Leaders of the Church have long been clear that there is no "official" or "revealed" geography for the majority of Book of Mormon events

Leaders of the Church have long been clear that there is no "official" or "revealed" geography for the majority of Book of Mormon events, including those which take place in the New World:[1]

There is a great deal of talk about the geography of the Book of Mormon. Where was the land of Zarahemla? Where was the City of Zarahemla? and other geographic matters. It does not make any difference to us. There has never been anything yet set forth that definitely settles that question. So the Church says we are just waiting until we discover the truth. All kinds of theories have been advanced. I have talked with at least half a dozen men that have found the very place where the City of Zarahemla stood, and notwithstanding the fact that they profess to be Book of Mormon students, they vary a thousand miles apart in the places they have located. We do not offer any definite solution. As you study the Book of Mormon keep these things in mind and do not make definite statements concerning things that have not been proven in advance to be true.[2]

As the Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes:

The Church has not taken an official position with regard to location of geographical places [of the Book of Mormon].[3]

Because there is no official revealed information on this topic outside of the Book of Mormon text itself (see this page for further statements from Church leaders and writers about geography), students of the Book of Mormon have proposed a number of models to illuminate what the text tells us.[4]


Question: Do we need to know where the Book of Mormon took place?

Since a precise knowledge of where the Book of Mormon took place is not necessary for it to bring spiritual conversion, the Church has never offered a revealed or official geography, and is unlikely to do so

It is claimed that the Church has no official position on geography of the Book of Mormon because the lands in the Book of Mormon never existed.

Since a precise knowledge of where the Book of Mormon took place is not necessary for it to bring spiritual conversion, the Church has never offered a revealed or official geography, and is unlikely to do so.

Those who offer this criticism often exaggerate the extent to which Biblical locations are known

Those who offer this criticism often exaggerate the extent to which Biblical locations are known, and ignore the disadvantages under which New World archaeology labors compared to the Old World.

Critics also ignore that there is substantial evidence for the Old World accounts in the Book of Mormon that were not known in Joseph Smith's day.

Most LDS scholars believe that a Mesoamerican setting best matches the Book of Mormon data, but other models have been advanced by others. Given that the Church has no revealed geography outside the Book of Mormon text, it is unlikely that a "Church-endorsed" map will be published. This does not prevent other researchers from seeking the most plausible correlation, but such undertakings remain secular, not spiritual.


Notes

  1. For historical review and discussion, see William J. Hamblin, "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 (1993): 161–197. wiki off-site GL direct link
  2. Anthony W. Ivins, Conference Report (April 1929), 16.
  3. John E. Clark, "Book of Mormon Geography," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:178.
  4. This is discussed at length in John L. Sorenson, An Ancient American Setting for the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City, Utah : Deseret Book Co. ; Provo, Utah : Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1996 [1985]),1–4. See also John L. Sorenson, Mormon's Map (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000), 4–8. ISBN 0934893489.