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Book of Mormon/Geography/Models/Limited/Meldrum 2003/Relationship of Heartland model to other models
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." 
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: 
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. 
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. 
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.  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.
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."
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." 
He would later say:
"All this took place in Central America, the perennial arena of the Big People versus the Little People."
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."
- "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."
- “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.”
- “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.”
- 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.”
- 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."
- “Hopewell cultural centers “are now believed to be definitely related to corresponding centers in Mesoamerica.”
- 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.”
- "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?"
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
- Rod Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA (Honeoye Falls, NY: Digital Legend Press, 2009), 5.
- Rod Meldrum, post on Daniel C. Peterson Patheos blog (19 November 2012, 11:45 a.m.).
- 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
- Rodney Meldrum, "Update, and request to serve on the FIRM FOUNDATION Counsel?" promotional e-mail, 9 May 2008.
- "Testimonials," www.bookofmormonevidence.org/testimony.php (accessed 24 March 2010); emphasis added, spelling and grammar unaltered.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- “The Book of Mormon: True or False?” Millennial Star 124 (November 1962): 276.
- 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.
- Hugh Nibley, "Ancient Temples: What Do They Signify?," Ensign (September 1972).
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- Hugh W. Nibley, Nibley on the Timely and Timeless (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; 1978), 150.
- Nibley to John Sorenson, 14 January 1999).