Book of Mormon Archaeology - Limited Geography Model

There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to directly support the Book of Mormon or the Nephites and Lamanites, who were supposed to have numbered in the millions. (Response: already addressed here) This is one of the reasons why unofficial apologists have developed the Limited Geography Model (it happened in Central or South America) and claim that the Hill Cumorah mentioned as the final battle of the Nephites is not in Palmyra, New York but is elsewhere. This is in direct contradiction to what Joseph Smith and other prophets have taught. It also makes little sense in light of the Church’s visitor’s center near the Hill Cumorah in New York and the annual Church-sponsored Hill Cumorah pageants.

We read about two major war battles that took place at the Hill Cumorah (Ramah to the Jaredites) with deaths numbering in the tens of thousands – the last battle between Lamanites and Nephites around 400 AD claimed at least 230,000 deaths on the Nephite side alone. No bones, hair, chariots, swords, armor, or any other evidence of a battle whatsoever has been found at this site. John E. Clark, director of BYU’s archaeological organization, wrote in the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies:

In accord with these general observations about New York and Pennsylvania, we come to our principal object – the Hill Cumorah. Archaeologically speaking, it is a clean hill. No artifacts, no walls, no trenches, no arrowheads. The area immediately surrounding the hill is similarly clean. Pre-Columbian people did not settle or build here. This is not the place of Mormon’s last stand. We must look elsewhere for that hill.

CES Letter, Page 12

Like all Book of Mormon geography, there is no official Church position regarding the location of the Hill Cumorah where the prophet Mormon hid up his records. For many decades researchers have proposed "Limited Geography Theories," some of which posit that the Hill Cumorah is not in New York.

There is no revelation declaring Book of Mormon geography. Early leaders offered their own speculations, which did not always agree, but no leader claimed a revelatory source for their opinions.

Joseph Smith said very little about the geography of the Book of Mormon. What little he did say suggests that he may have shared the view held by his associates, that the Book of Mormon narrative describes events occurring in North, Central, and South America.

The angel Moroni did not identify the geography of locations mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon itself does not identify the hill in which it was buried. Instead, the hill in which all the Nephite plates other than those of the Book of Mormon were buried is identified (Mormon 6:6).

In an article published in 1848, former apostle John E. Page reported a correlation between Central America and the main lands of the Book of Mormon: 

"All who are familiar with the Book of Mormon are probably aware of the fact that the whole account of the history of the fore fathers of the American Indians, called the Nephites, Lamanites and Zoramites, is confined to Central America entirely until the 394th page [Alma 63]." ("Collateral Testimony of the Truth and Divinity of the Book of Mormon.—No. 3," Gospel Herald, 14 September 1848, 123.)

In John Sorenson's Geography of Book of Mormon Events, the "Plain Facts" model from 1887 limits the action in the Book of Mormon to between Columbia and Mesoamerica, considerably smaller than the Hemispheric Geography (see pp. 135–37). The Holmes model from 1903 extends from Ecuador and Arizona (pp. 96–97). The Hills model from 1917 centers on Mesoamerica, and is the earliest that corresponds with modern Mesoamerican theories (pp. 87–89). The Young model from before 1920 focuses on Central America (pp. 205–06).

While the early Saints may have thought of Book of Mormon events in hemispheric terms, neither the prophecies in the Book of Mormon nor Joseph Smith's account of Moroni's visit requires such an interpretation of Book of Mormon geography.


See:

Limited Geography and the Book of Mormon: Historical Antecedents and Early Interpretations-  by Matthew Roper

Additional Resources:

Articles of Faith 11: Neal Rappleye – “War of Words and Tumult of Opinions”: The Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography, Neal Rappleye

FAIR Issues 20: Book of Mormon geography may be smaller than you think, Michael R. Ash

FAIR Issues 40: Two points about Book of Mormon geography, Michael R. Ash

Fair Issues 79: A consistent Book of Mormon map, Michael R. Ash

Fair Issues 78: What is the correct Book of Mormon geography?, Miachael R. Ash

Fair Issues 77: What is the correct geography for the Book of Mormon?, Michael R. Ash

Book of Mormon Geography (PDF) (2008 FAIR Conference) by Larry Poulsen

Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography (2013 FAIR Conference) by Mark Alan Wright

A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies –   by John E. Clark

Basic Methodological Problems with the Anti-Mormon Approach to the Geography and Archaeology of the Book of Mormon –  by William J. Hamblin

Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography, Mark Alan Wright

Axes Mundi: Ritual Complexes in Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon, Mark Alan Wright

“War of Words and Tumult of Opinions”: The Battle for Joseph Smith’s Words in Book of Mormon Geography,Neal Rappleye

Deciphering the Geography of the Book of Mormon –  by Mark V. Withers

Interpreting Book of Mormon Geography –  by Randall P. Spackman

Joseph Smith, Revelation, and Book of Mormon Geography –  by Matthew Roper

Book of Mormon Geography in the Old World

Book of Mormon Geography in the New World

The Book of Mormon in a New World Setting by Brant Gardner

Journey of Faith: Book of Mormon Documentary

Journey of Faith: The New World video

Summary of Book of Mormon evidence and Geography by Steve Carr

Truth about Joseph Smith’s Beliefs on Geography of The Book of Mormon

LDS Temple dedicatory prayers and Book of Mormon geography

Ancient Mayan city Lamanai and The Book of Mormon

BOM Geography debate — 3 Unique Characteristics with Jerry Ainsworth

Book of Mormon 10 No Confirmed Locations by Michael Ash

Book of Mormon cities match Maya cities

Book of Mormon Geography

Book of Mormon Geography

Book of Mormon Geography, Old World

Geography of The Book of Mormon: the river Sidon

Heartland as Hinterland: Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography

In Search of Ancient Cumorah Segment 1

In Search of Ancient Cumorah segment 2

In Search of Ancient Cumorah segment 3

Indians of the Great Lakes region and The Book of Mormon

Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon Geography

Joseph Smith and Book of Mormon geography

Joseph Smiths Book of Mormon geography