Getting real about Cumorah – Part 4a(1), more on BYU Studies

You’re going to think my previous post about BYU Studies was written with the latest issue in mind. Actually, I wrote the post in advance and didn’t get the latest issue of BYU Studies until yesterday.

Volume 56:4 (2017)

As usual, it’s full M2C (Mesoamerica/two Cumorahs).

Sadly, when it comes to Book of Mormon studies, BYU Studies has deteriorated into little more than a dressing up of the corporate mission and mandate at Book of Mormon Central “to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient American codex.”

This issue includes an article titled “Animals in the Book of Mormon” that features many of the problems I’ve documented on this blog. Here’s my conclusion after reading this article:

If, hypothetically, the prophets and apostles had taught that Cumorah was in southern Mexico, then the strained combinations of bias confirmation, argument, and textual interpretation that the M2C intellectuals rely upon might be excusable in an effort to vindicate the prophets.

But when these same strained combinations of bias confirmation, argument and textual interpretation are being used to repudiate the prophets, the effort is not only futile but destructive. 

I call upon BYU Studies and the rest of the citation cartel to change course and direct their efforts toward supporting and sustaining what the prophets and apostles have taught about Cumorah in New York instead of continuing to assert their intellect and training as the primary source of authority regarding the Book of Mormon.

Some readers have asked me to do more of the articles in which I conduct a “peer review” of articles such as this. I did some of those early in this blog as well as on my other blog, 

If I wasn’t so busy with things other than these topics, I’d like to do more of those peer reviews.

In fact, I’ve offered to do confidential pre-publication peer reviews for the citation cartel, but not surprisingly they’ve rejected my offer.

This article is a good example of how a serious peer review would have helped. But, as we know from long experience, the M2C citation cartel is interested in peer approval, not peer review. They are desperate to keep their M2C “consensus” alive, even as it is becoming less convincing every day.

(I have a post on bias confirmation scheduled for tomorrow that explains this M2C consensus.)

If you have the print edition of BYU Studies, the article starts on page 133. If you have a subscription, you can download the issue here: If you don’t subscribe, maybe you can find the issue at a library.

Here I’ll comment on one section in particular, plus the overall logic and conclusions. Key to this discussion is the distinction between North America and Mesoamerica. As used here, the two areas are mutually exclusive. They correspond to the New York Cumorah and the Mexican Cumorah, respectively.

Overall, this is a helpful article. It addresses the arguments by critics of the Book of Mormon who claim animals mentioned in the text did not live in America concurrently with the Nephites and Jaredites. The authors have collected some useful sources and make good points about the difficulty of identifying which animals went extinct when.

They conclude that “fossils of horses, elephants, mastodons, and other animals that may relate to the Book of Mormon have been uncovered in Mesoamerica and may date to the time period covered in that. We conclude that once all the facts are known, the scientific record will not conflict with the scriptural one.” (page 175)

Well, there’s the M2C giveaway. The article is not as helpful as we would have hoped because the authors focus on Mesoamerica. This is a purely M2C article, as we have come to expect from BYU Studies. As with everything published by the citation cartel, we have to read carefully to see what is dogmatic M2C rhetoric and what is thoughtful and useful for actual Book of Mormon studies.

Before delving into the substance, here’s an example of the kind of thing a serious peer review would have corrected. On page 141, I read this sentence and said to myself, “not true.”

Only a minuscule number of animals that have lived on earth have become fossilized or preserved. 

I thought, “surely they meant to say a minuscule percentage of animals.” Sure enough, when I reached page 144, I read this:

Most ancient animals and plants are known only through their fossils. Although fossils number in the many trillions, the percentage of organisms that have become fossilized is minute—probably much less than 0.1 percent. 

Are we supposed to believe that “many trillions” is “a minuscule number?” Of course not. This is just an oversight, not a major one, but the type of error that reveals the level of “peer review” (and editorial oversight) that M2C articles receive. That’s because the citation cartel is all about confirming the collective bias, not about challenging that bias.

On the substance, I’m going to do an interlinear peer review after all, but only one one section.

p. 135 Book of Mormon Lands

One important topic bearing upon the issue of animals in the Book of Mormon is the location of the lands described in the text. Agreed. In our view, an ancient Mesoamerican setting is best supported by the information given in the Book of Mormon. 

“Our view” being not only that of the two authors, but of BookofMormonCentral, which employs one of the authors, BYU Studies, and all the other participants in the citation cartel.

Notice the careful qualifier here: best supported by the information given in the Book of Mormon.” This is a euphemism for rejecting the words of the prophets and apostles, starting with Letter VII and continuing through modern-day General Conference, who have consistently and persistently taught that there is one Hill Cumorah and it is in New York. 

The M2C intellectuals adamantly reject the New York Cumorah–they say the prophets and apostles have been expressing their own opinions, which are false and misleading to members of the Church–but the intellectuals don’t want people to realize how directly they repudiate the prophets and apostles. So instead, they misdirect by pretending to focus on the “information given” in the text.

But even that’s not true. Instead, they focus on their own interpretation of the text, as we’ll see below. 

This technique of focusing on Mesoamerica without advertising that they are repudiating the prophets and apostles is called “thinking past the sale.” I’ve addressed that before here:

The idea is that you get people focusing on Mesoamerica so they don’t realize they’ve unconsciously bought into the two-Cumorahs theory. That’s how we ended up with the Visitors Center on Temple Square teaching two-Cumorahs to millions of people every year. It’s clever, and has been successful–so far. 

Fortunately, people are starting to catch on.   

The evidence for this conclusion, as has been addressed by many scholars, includes the limited geography of events and travel described in the text and a historical chronology consistent with the archaeological record of the region.4 

This is clever rhetoric as well. The “evidence” cited here isn’t really evidence; it’s pure bias confirming interpretation of the text, which is anything but evidence. For example, the “limited geography of events and travel” is based on a series of cascading assumptions about how far someone could walk in a day over mountainous territory and through jungles. 

When you analyze the “historical chronology” in any detail you quickly observe that the M2C scholars “can’t unsee Mesoamerica” so they latch onto Mayan society to find “correspondences” between the Mayans and the Nephites/Lamanites. To someone not infected with Mesomania, these M2C “correspondences” are transparently common attributes of most human societies. It’s bias confirmation at its worst.

(BTW, the M2C bias confirmation is evident from the refusal, or inability, of M2C intellectuals to do a side-by-side comparison between Mesoamerica and North America. This article is awesome in this respect, as we’ll see.) 

Notice the qualifier, “many scholars.” Again, this specifically excludes the prophets and apostles, as well as Joseph and Oliver themselves.

Cultural evidence for an ancient Mesoamerican setting includes proof of a sophisticated tradition of writing in a variety of media,5 

We all agree with this statement about Mesoamerican writing. But that’s evidence against the Mesoamerican setting, based on the text of the Book of Mormon.

The only “media” specifically mentioned in the text are metal plates and, arguably, a combustible material (which also could have been metal). The Nephites kept “many books and many records of every kind” (Hel. 3:15), but paper is never mentioned. Abinadom said “the record of this people is engraven upon plates.” The people of Zarahemla, of course, had no written language, and they were far more numerous than the Nephites. Even after the Nephites taught them to write, it’s not clear how widespread that knowledge was.

The Lamanites also had no written language, except once when the Nephites taught them a written language. But they were intent on destroying records. In fact, it was because the “Lamanites would destroy them” that Mormon “hid up in the hill Cumorah all the records which had been entrusted to me.” (Mormon 6:6). If all the records were in the hill Cumorah, we wouldn’t expect to find records engraven on stones and codexes throughout the land, which is what we see in Mesoamerica.

For that matter, there is only one stone “with engravings on it” mentioned in the text. (Omni 1:20). It was so unusual that the people brought it to Mosiah to be translated.

Obviously, no reformed Egyptian or mention of Nephites (or Jaredites) has been discovered in Mesoamerica. Some scholars claim there are “correspondences” between some Mayan names and Book of Mormon names, but this is more bias confirmation because there are common sounds in every language.  

a complex society with large populations, 

We don’t know the population of the Nephites, although Mormon mentioned that “the Nephites had gathered together a great number of men, even to exceed the number of thirty thousand.” If 30,000 is a “great number of men,” how big could the society really have been? I’ve observed elsewhere that although 2 million Jaredites were killed over decades of war and conflict, fewer than 10,000 survived for the final battle at Cumorah. I also think there were only 20,000 to 30,000 Nephites at Cumorah for several reasons. 

Standard M2C orthodoxy has the Nephites as a small group mingling with a larger Mayan civilization, so maybe we roughly agree on the size of the Nephite population. But, of course, there’s no mention in the text of Mayans. I don’t think even M2C intellectuals conflate the “wild, ferocious and blood-thirsty” Lamanites with the Mayans, do they?

Furthermore, we can only make rough inferences about how “complex” their society was. They had a system of judges, and a government sophisticated enough to break down into tribes. If we try, from an M2C lens, to spot indicia of Mayan civilization in the text, we can undoubtedly find what we’re looking for. But the same is true in ancient North America. It was not a bunch of ignorant hunter/gatherers who constructed the sophisticated earthworks in Ohio, for example.  

many large and complex buildings and fortifications, not a single stone building is even mentioned in the text, let alone massive stone pyramids and complexes. Instead, we have “ridges of earth” with “works of timbers built up” and a “wall of timbers and earth” (Alma 50:2, 53:4), exactly as we find in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois–the area Joseph Smith himself identified as “the plains of the Nephites.”  

warfare, ubiquitous in human societies a high degree of art, not mentioned in the text, except for King Noah’s wooden palace ornamented with gold and silver and some gold workmanship in a Jaredite prison a good understanding of astronomy, highly accurate calendar systems, like the earthworks in Newark, Ohio, the largest earthworks in the world an advanced knowledge of agriculture and husbandry, we’ll see this in the article itself and sophisticated cement technologies introduced over two thousand years ago. 

I have to comment about cement because it’s one of the delightful M2C memes that actually argues against Mesoamerica. 

M2C intellectuals like to tell their followers that there is no cement in ancient North America. But if you go to a digital version of the Book of Mormon and search for “cement” it shows up 4 times: 3 times in Helaman 3, and once in the testimony of Joseph Smith, who said Moroni built the stone box in the Hill Cumorah out of stone and cement. 

IOW, the only known Nephite cement was in New York.

Helaman 3 refers to people using cement because they ran out of wood. They “did dwell in tents, and in houses of cement.” The built many cities “both of wood and of cement.” Notice, they built nothing out of stone. Anyone who has visited the Mayan sites in Mesoamerica knows the primary building material was stone. They used cement between the stones, but none of those structures are made of cement.

Before and after the Helaman 3 account, Mormon never mentions cement, but he does mention building with wood. The cement was an unusual, temporary building material. There’s a useful article on this topic here

How much Nephite cement would we expect to survive to the present? Moroni’s box was carefully constructed to repel moisture, but exposed cement deteriorates quickly, especially when exposed to freezing and thawing. Some ancient cement, such as the Roman Pantheon, has endured exceptionally well because the Romans included volcanic ash in the mortar. See here. Perhaps that also explains why the Mayan cement has endured. 

But in an area without volcanoes, such as the American Midwest to New York area, we wouldn’t expect to find volcanic ash in the mortar, so we also wouldn’t expect to find long-lasting cement, at least not above ground. 

These combined characteristics of advanced civilization are not known anywhere else in North America, north of Mesoamerica.6

They are not known to M2C intellectuals, for sure. But people who are not seeking to confirm their M2C biases know about these things right where Joseph said they would be.

Actually, my favorite part of this section is the footnotes. Look at footnote 6, for example: Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex. We come full circle in the citation cartel. One author of this article, Matt Roper, works for Book of Mormon Central. Book of Mormon Central’s corporate mission is “to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient American codex.” We expect Brother Roper to cite bias-confirming sources, and what better one could there possibly be than Mormon’s Codex? This is the infamous book that ridicules those who “still believe” in what Joseph, Oliver, and all the other prophets and apostles have taught about the New York Cumorah.

When you look at the footnotes throughout this article, you see why I use the term “citation cartel” here. I know some of the M2C intellectuals are upset by that term, but I’ve asked them to give me another one and they haven’t. I can’t think of another term to describe this phenomenon. I don’t intend any offense. I’m just trying to point out what’s going on here.

Additional convergences are found in the Book of Mormon account, “convergences” are the same as the illusory “correspondences” that the M2C intellectuals always discuss

including the destruction in 3 Nephi 8–10, which is consistent with volcanic events accompanied by earthquakes.7 

“Volcanoes” are the second of the trifecta of M2C dogma. (The first being “cement” and the third being “snow.” We’ll see if this article mentions snow.) Of course, the text never mentions volcanoes. You have to infer that (i) what Mormon described was volcanic action and that (ii) Mormon didn’t know what a volcano was, or didn’t have a word for it, or Joseph mistranslated again.

The “volcano” argument is perhaps the worst bias confirmation of all. These M2C intellectuals told us in the second sentence of this section that their Mesoamerican setting “is best supported by the information given in the Book of Mormon.” But here, they rely on information not even given in the text!

I readily concede that had the Book of Mormon mentioned volcanoes, we’d have to be looking in a part of the world that has volcanoes (or had them in the relevant time frame). But because the text never once mentions volcanoes, the last place we should be looking is a part of the world where volcanoes are common and part of daily life. 

Now, look at the next sentence. 

Middle America is one of the most volcanically active regions in the world.8 

What can I say? These M2C intellectuals are disqualifying their own theory, but they are so blinded by their bias confirmation that they don’t realize it.

Readers of this blog already know that the destruction in 3 Nephi is not only easily explained by earthquake events in the Midwestern U.S., but within the historical record, people living in that area have described their experiences that line up exactly with what the text describes. 

IOW, Mormon didn’t mention volcanoes because he never saw volcanoes, and none of the people he wrote about did either.

Also, gold and silver are two precious metals mentioned as being abundant in Book of Mormon lands (1 Ne. 18:25; Hel. 6:9; Ether 9:17; 10:23). Both gold and silver are plentiful in Mesoamerica. 

More pure bias confirmation. Gold and silver are found throughout the world, from South Africa to Indonesia to Russia, as well as throughout the Americas. Its presence in Mesoamerica is unremarkable. But what is remarkable, and little known, is that the first American gold rush was in North Carolina, where a 12-year-old found a 17-pound gold nugget at a creek on his father’s farm in 1799. There’s a geological formation from Virginia through the Carolinas to Georgia that features gold and silver in abundance. If Lehi’s family landed near the 30th parallel in Florida or Georgia, they weren’t far from these gold deposits. Lots more on this, but the point is, gold and silver are located in many places.  

“Fine pearls” are mentioned as an important luxury item (4 Ne. 1:24). While pearl-bearing oysters and other clams occur in both fresh and salt waters the world over, the most precious pearls come from tropical to subtropical seas. The “fine” pearls are known to be abundant off the coasts of southern Mexico and were prized by Mesoamerican peoples from preclassic times.9 

You have to admire this clause: “the most precious pearls come from tropical to subtropical seas.” That’s in there because pearls are common in museums in the Midwestern U.S., which feature strands of pearls and other pearl ornaments taken from Hopewell (Nephite) mounds. You can see examples here.  The M2C intellectuals don’t tell you that; instead, in case you find out from other sources about the Hopewell pearls, they imply that pearls not from “tropical to subtropical seas” cannot qualify as “fine.” It’s an absurd argument, of course, but most readers will passively accept this type of rhetoric, especially if they read BYU Studies to confirm their M2C biases. 

Descriptions of climate and its implications in the Book of Mormon text suggest that warm and mild conditions were typical (Alma 51:33). 

In case you don’t know this reference by heart after hearing it repeated as a mantra by M2C intellectuals, the verse says, “behold, sleep had overpowered them because of their much fatigue, which was caused by the labors and heat of the day.”

This is one verse in a thousand years of history and it’s supposedly “typical” of the climate. But what does it say, really?

I think it is hardly remarkable that “sleep” would “overpower” someone. It happens daily for most people. But here, they had marched, they had fought in a war until it was dark, and they were fatigued because of “the labors and heat of the day.” 

This is the sole use in the text of the term “heat” in connection with weather, but are there any inhabited places on the planet that don’t have “heat of the day,” especially when you’re engaged in something as strenuous as fighting a war? This summer I went snorkeling along the Atlantic rift in 38 degree water in Iceland. But the weather outside was warm. I was wearing a dry suit, but we changed in open air. I was sweaty and tired from the exertion. Hiking around the Althing (oldest parliament) nearby made us hot and tired. If that’s the case in Iceland, where couldn’t someone become tired from the labors and heat of the day? It’s really a reflection on the amount of exertion than on the outside temperatures.

Maybe they were hot because they wore thick clothing (Alma 43:19). I don’t know about you, but when I’ve explored the ruins in Mesoamerica, “thick clothing” was the last thing I wanted to wear. In fact, I once got heat stroke along the Amazon in Peru just because I was wearing jeans and a long-sleeved shirt–hardly “thick clothing.”

I realize these are semantic debates that resolve nothing, but remember, this is the type of “evidence” the M2C intellectuals cite. Put a single instance of “heat of the day” through the meat grinder of M2C dogma and you get–no surprise–“warm and mild conditions” “typical” of the entire Book of Mormon.

Or, you could ask yourself why people were wearing “thick clothing” while fighting in a tropical jungle. 

Any decent peer reviewer would have asked that question.

There is no mention of snow and ice in the land of promise, and the single reference to hail is atypical (Mosiah 12:6). 

Aha, we’ve reached the trifecta! Snow after all. Whew. I feared they’d let us down.

The M2C intellectuals don’t like to admit that Nephi cited “snow” as a metaphor (1 Nephi 11:8). Here, for example, they emphasize “snow and ice” are not mentioned in the land of promise. But why would Nephi use “snow” as a metaphor if his people didn’t know what it was? And not just “snow,” but “driven snow.” This isn’t a reference to something white on the tips of the volcanoes in the distance. “Driven snow” is what you experience when you’re in a snow storm. 

But I love this tell for cognitive dissonance. “The single reference to hail is atypical” but a single reference to “heat of the day” manages to “suggest that warm and mild conditions were typical.”

IOW, what is and what is not “typical” depends on what M2C intellectuals want you to think. As I pointed out in the beginning, it has nothing to do with the text; it’s purely and solely their bias confirming interpretation that matters.

And, don’t forget, it is this sort of “evidence” that justified their repudiation of the prophets and apostles.

Even better, the Mosiah 12:6 is not even the only textual reference to hail! Helaman cautioned his sons about the devil and “his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you” (Hel. 5:12).  M2C intellectuals don’t like to discuss the term “whirlwind” either, so it’s not surprising they would omit this second reference to hail. 

While not proof of warm to semitropical climate, this combination of factors is suggestive of them. These and other factors seem to point toward a pre-Columbian Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon.

The inevitable nod to “neutrality.” These M2C intellectuals realize that the Church is “officially neutral” on the question of Book of Mormon geography (whatever that means). The intellectuals have managed to convert that “neutrality” into a repudiation of the prophets and apostles who have taught the New York Cumorah, but they recognize they’re still working toward an official repudiation of the prophets and apostles, so they don’t want to rock the boat too badly. 

Even though their corporate mission is “to increase understanding of the Book of Mormon as an ancient American codex,” they don’t want Church leaders to realize what they are doing so they like to throw in a little “neutrality” rhetoric such as this last paragraph. 

But they’re not fooling us.

Here are the footnotes. Brother Roper even cites himself, along with the usual suspects I’ve discussed on this blog many times.

4. J. A. Washburn, An Approach to the Study of Book of Mormon Geogra- phy (American Fork, Utah: Alpine Publishing, 1939); John L. Sorenson, Mor- mon’s Map (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 2000); John E. Clark, “Revisiting ‘A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies,’” Mormon Studies Review 23, no. 1 (2011): 13–43; Matthew Roper, “Plausibility, Probability, and the Cumorah Question,” The Religious Educator 10 (2009): 135–58; Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 119–43. For archaeological correlations, see Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 499–707; and John E. Clark, “Archaeological Trends and Book of Mormon Origins,” BYU Studies 44, no. 4 (2005): 89–91.
5. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 184–232.
6. Sorenson, Mormon’s Codex, 265–495.
7. Bart J. Kowalis, “‘In the Thirty and Fourth Year’: A Geologist’s View of the Great Destruction in 3 Nephi,” BYU Studies 37, no. 3 (1997–1998): 136–90; Wade E. Miller, Creation of the Earth for Man (Laguna Niguel, Calif.: KCT & Associates, 2010); Jerry D. Grover, Geology and the Book of Mormon (Vineyard, Utah: By the author, 2014).
8. Robert H. Dott and Roger L. Batten, Evolution of the Earth (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1988), 4.
9. Michael D. Coe, “Archaeological Synthesis of Southern Veracruz and Tabasco,” in Handbook of Middle American Indians, ed. Gordon S. Wiley (Aus- tin: University of Texas Press, 1965), 3:697; Alfonso Caso, “Lapidary Work, Goldwork, and Copper Work from Oaxaca,” in Handbook of Middle American Indians: Volumes 2 and 3, Archaeology of Southern Mesoamerica, ed. Gordon R. Willey (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965), 915.

Now, to the substance of the article.

The usual arguments appear. One section titled “Cross-Cultural Naming Challenges” tells us that “When discussing Book of Mormon animals, we need to consider that the Lehite, Mulekite, and Jaredite migrants may have applied Old World terms to New World species.” (page 138).

This is open season on Joseph’s translation, of course. Instead of claiming Joseph translated the plates incorrectly because of his New England background as they once did, the M2C intellectuals can now blame Mormon for using the wrong terms–even though neither Mormon nor any of the other authors of the text after Nephi/Jacob ever lived in the old world, so they could not have created the cross-cultural naming problem. Apparently, then, Nephi caused the problem by naming Mesoamerican animals after the Old World animals he was familiar with.

The argument, on its face, is reasonable. Certainly explorers arriving in new lands encounter new species and try to describe them in familiar terms. For example, Spanish explorers referred to American bison as “cattle,” “cows,” and “bulls,” (page 151), which makes sense even in today’s world when we see them herding and feeding. (Regarding this example, the article notes regarding the phrase “both the cow and the ox” (2 Ne. 18:25) that “it is possible these terms refer to the American bison, which apparently survived throughout various regions of Mexico and as far south as Nicaragua until fairly recent times.”

Uh huh. Now we have herds of migrating bison in Nicaragua. And that’s more persuasive than the occasional, isolated individual bison who might have been found in the American Midwest once upon a time.

Okay, sarcasm off.

The Book of Mormon situation is unlike the case of early explorers, however. According to his mother, Joseph Smith “would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, mode of traveling, and the animals upon which they rode; their cities, their buildings, with every particular; their mode of warfare; and also their religious worship. This he would do with as much ease, seemingly, as if he had spent his whole life with them.”

Joseph was familiar with two things before he even obtained the plates: (1) the animals he lived among (and presumably learned about in school and from books, including the Bible) and (2) the animals the Nephites used. The M2C assertion that Joseph translated the text wrong because of his background, or that the text used the wrong words because of cross-cultural identification, ignores Joseph’s knowledge. If he could describe Nephite society before he even got the plates, and he knew the people were riding around on tapirs, would he still have used the wrong term to describe the animals?

Speaking of tapirs, this article has an entire paragraph on descriptions of tapirs. You can see why M2C intellectuals love the tapir. According to the article, early explorers compared it to a “cow,” “ox,” buffalo,”, “ass,” and “elephant.” Brother Sorenson (Mormon’s Codex) may be the first to compare a tapir to a horse. He should have also compared it to a goat, and then we’d be done with the article. That way, a tapir could account for every animal mentioned in the text.

Unfortunately, tapirs were known by people living in the United States in 1828 (presumably including Joseph Smith). Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines a tapir this way: “A quadruped of S. America, about 6 feet long and 3 l/2 high, resembling a hog in shape, with a short movable proboscis. It frequents the water, like the hippopotamus.”

So a tapir not only qualifies as all the animals mentioned above, but also a “hog” and a “hippopotamus.”

The authors address tapirs as possible “cureloms and cumoms” as well.

One relatively large animal currently living in Mesoamerica (and also now living in South America and Southeast Asia), but doubtfully known to Joseph Smith, is the tapir. In the past, this animal had a much greater northward geographic range in North America. It lived all throughout Mexico and north well into the United States. (p. 168).

As I showed, tapirs were defined in Webster’s 1828 dictionary. The authors don’t explain why they assume tapirs would be “doubtfully known to Joseph Smith,” but we infer that such knowledge on Joseph’s part would contradict, instead of confirm, their bias. And as we’ve seen, that’s reason enough for many of their assumptions and interpretations.

The article makes a good point about extinction of species. (The heading to this section is odd: “Extinction of Animals and the Record of Past Life.” Animals aren’t extinct; species are. Another note for the absentee peer reviewers.)

The key point is the one I agreed with at the outset; i.e., only a tiny percentage of dead animals become fossilized or otherwise preserved. The authors remind us of Hamblin’s point that there are few remains of the Hun horses, which numbered in the hundreds of thousands according to historical accounts. We expect animal bodies to decay and disintegrate after death; otherwise, the Earth would be littered with carcasses. 

As a species nears extinction, declining numbers would mean fewer opportunities for preservation of remains. It is impossible to know when the last individual of a species lived.

All this means that we are unlikely to find much, if any, evidence of extinct species near the time of extinction. IOW, we know horses and elephants lived in North America anciently, but no remains have been found that date to Book of Mormon time frames. But, as the aphorism goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The article goes on to explain how the species specifically named in the text could, arguably, have been present in Mesoamerica at the mentioned times. But in most cases, such as the bison, horse, mountain sheep, mamoths, goats, and elephants, the preponderance of evidence for the species comes from North America, especially the Midwestern U.S.

To support the M2C dogma, this article looks for needles in haystacks; i.e., rare, obscure indicia of North American species (the needles) among the far more numerous species (the hay) in Mesoamerica.

The absurdity of this approach is evident when we realize that the inverse is true in North America; i.e., the evidence of these species is relatively abundant in North America.

When we look for evidence of the Book of Mormon in North America, with Cumorah in New York, it’s like looking for hay in a haystack.

Let’s look at the conclusion again, this time on page 174.

Various lines of evidence based on geography, geology, archaeology, climate, and more point to an area in Mesoamerica as the place where Book of Mormon events occurred. The fossils known from the area are also compatible with this view. Doubts regarding the historicity of the Book of Mormon, however, have arisen for many since horses, elephants, and other animals listed in the Book of Mormon were thought to be extinct in North America long before the record was written. Continuing research, on the other hand, shows that in fact many of these animals may have lived into Book of Mormon times. During the past century, a number of animals and plants once thought to have become extinct much earlier in time lived hundreds, thousands, and even millions of years later.

By now, you see the logical fallacy. First, the geography, geology, archaeology, climate and more point more toward North America than toward Mesoamerica. But the contrast is even more evident when we consider animal species and the fossil record. All the examples cited in support of Mesoamerica are much more abundant in North America.

I repeat what I wrote at the outset.

If, hypothetically, the prophets and apostles had taught that Cumorah was in southern Mexico, then the strained combinations of facts, argument, and textual interpretation might be excusable in an effort to vindicate the prophets.

But when these same strained combinations of facts, argument and textual interpretation are being used to repudiate the prophets, the effort is not only futile but destructive.

Once again, I ask that BYU Studies and the rest of the citation cartel change course.

Source: Book of Mormon Wars

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