The Council of Springville

Last week, Book of Mormon Central announced a news item:

“Book of Mormon Scholars Meet to discuss Controversial Passages.” The link went to a page titled “Textual Progress.” The first line: “Book of Mormon Central convened a working group to consider the sense of meaning of a number of passages in the text whose interpretations have proven controversial.” This is really great news for Mesoamerican supporters.

Mesoamerican supporters will be relieved to know the Mesoamerican scholars still agree with the Mesoamerican theory. Which is perfectly fine with me.

The first thing I thought of was a council that convened in
the year 325 for a similar purpose. The emperor Constantine 1 convened the first ecumenical council of the Christian church in ancient Nicaea. One summary of the council describes it this way:

“This first ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, although previous councils, including the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem, had met before to settle matters of dispute. It was presided over by Hosius, bishop of Corduba who was in communion with the Pope.
“Its main accomplishments were settlement of the Christological issue of the nature of the Son of God and his relationship to God the Father, the construction of the first part of the Creed of Nicaea, establishing uniform observance of the date of Easter, and promulgation of early canon law.”
Another perhaps cynical source points out that “Constantine was more interested in unity than in getting the correct doctrine of the trinity.”

I’m calling this latest effort the Council of Springville. The conclave (their term) represented one faction of Book of Mormon geography proponents who support the limited geography Mesoamerican theory, and convened to attain consensus about how to interpret certain Book of Mormon geography passages.

Lest anyone jump to the conclusion I’m being critical, I’m not. Each of the scholars who participated in this latest conclave is a perfectly respectable, serious scholar. There is nothing wrong with the idea of a scholarly working group convened to interpret the scriptures. A lot of people admire the Nicene Council, too. After all, it produced one of the most influential documents in Christianity. Prominent LDS scholars have produced the most influential theory of Book of Mormon geography as well.


Those who support the Mesoamerican theory will appreciate that the scholars concluded that “The notion that River Sidon flows from north to south is not supported in the text. River Sidon flows from south to north just as Book of Mormon scholars have been saying since the 1800s.” This is an excellent example of how to confirm one’s biases. Again, not being critical. Just observing that if you take a group of scholars who already agree with a given proposition, and ask if they still agree with that proposition, the likelihood that they will affirm their previous beliefs is probably close to 100%.
(In the interest of full disclosure, there is another view, not represented at the conclave, that the text does not support a south to north flowing Sidon. But that view relies on the text, not the opinions of scholars, so it should be discounted accordingly.)

Mesoamerican supporters will also be glad to know that the scholars set out a hierarchy of classes of evidence. “In a relative hierarchy of classes of evidence, the text itself, subject to interpretation, must be primary. There has been no authoritative revelation on Book of Mormon geography in this dispensation. Revelation to the current Prophet could trump the text, but only if it carried the same degree of certainty as the words Joseph received through the seer stone.”

It’s reassuring to know that the current prophets, seers and revelators are bound by the limits imposed by the Council of Springville.

The conclave did not provide notes or a transcript, so it’s not known whether actual experience–e.g., Joseph and Oliver physically visiting Mormon’s records repository (Mormon 6:6) in the New York hill–would qualify as evidence. That possibility does not appear to have been considered by the conclave.

The scholars managed “to reach general agreement on some key points” in addition to the hierarchy of evidence and north-flowing river Sidon. Rest assured that each of the key points reaffirms the limited-geography Mesoamerican theory.


Someone asked me, “Why the Council of Springville? What’s in Springville?”

Answer: Headquarters of Book of Mormon Central.

Source: About Central America

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