There has been much discussion in recent years regarding exactly where the events of the Book of Mormon took place, most people settling upon two main places: Central America and the Heartland model which comprises areas between the Great Lakes and Florida.
(EDIT: May 24, 2020, Due to many comments on forums and Facebook Pages over recent weeks/months, I have added many updates to this page at the bottom and several more will be added in the upcoming weeks. This post was never intended to be a complete answer to the question but to present some things most people have never heard in the debate. It has become apparent though that some people have not been exposed to alternative options due to heavy marketing and social media activity that is preying upon the hearts of people wanting to have physical proof to show others of the truth of the Book of Mormon. I even have many close friends that believe in the Heartland Model and they are unwilling to accept something else. Some even claimed that for years they followed the Meso American model but have now “completely changed their minds because of the teachings of Rod Meldrum and others.” In the process, they have completely ignored and denied the geographical evidence in the Book of Mormon. This is not safe because NONE of their references work whatsoever. I hope this helps. Please see the new Video at the bottom that discusses this concept.)
There have been all kinds of videos and seminars and books written about both proposals. Some people claim to have left the church because they did not agree with the belief that the Book of Mormon was somehow written in Central America. Others have gotten into heated debates and arguments showing that the heartland model does not follow any internal geographical evidence of the Book of Mormon. Others point out the obvious fact that the plates were discovered in a hill near Palmyra New York so how can the hill Cumorah be somewhere in Central Mexico? Others point to numerous purported Hebrew writings on walls, stones, and even a variety of plates on different materials found in the eastern half of America. Undoubtedly, these must be Book of Mormon people because they were Hebrews, right?
As you can tell from the title of this article, I do not fall into the camp of those who believe in the heartland model. When Jesus spoke of the Pharisees and claimed that they would strain at gnats and swallow camels, in my mind, this is a perfect description of those who distort the facts to try to fit the place they want the Book Mormon events to take place. In Jesus’s time, they did not have water filtration systems as we do and the water would sometimes be covered with little bugs or gnats. They would strain them through a cloth or their teeth and spit them out. However, some things as large as camels (in the parable or metaphor Jesus gave) would be swallowed whole and is a perfect description of those who try to force the heartland model on the rest of us.
They are ignoring clear apparent facts and swallowing gigantic falsehoods for some unknown reason.
I am going to give two reasons why I believe the Book of Mormon events took place entirely in Central America. One of them has been discussed before and published in writings through BYU. The other one I can almost 100% guarantee you have never heard of before. Then I will talk about 2 other essential issues to consider.
Let’s talk about the first one first. Two hand-drawn maps were drawn by Joseph Smith regarding the travels of Moroni, and I have included a copy of one of them below. It clearly shows places that he traveled including the sandhills in the south part of Arizona, the city of Manti (that is actually on the other map that isn’t shown), Independence and Jackson County Missouri, the Hill Cumorah, and the land Bountiful in Central America. It shows that he went to these places more than once and this would’ve taken many years. Because of a recent move, all my books are stored away, and I don’t have access to which one this was taken from, but these were published by John Lund in the early 80s from BYU.
This one fact alone should eliminate the Heartland model from further discussion. These maps are held in the archives of the church and are extremely valuable regarding this discussion. They are verified to be in Joseph Smith’s own handwriting but like many other things, they are ignored by the Heartlanders or claimed as fakes.
So let’s talk about the second reason why I believe in the Central American model. Now this story will not prove anything to anyone, but it is worth considering even though it’s a personal story from me.
In the Fall of 1982, I took a Bible and Book of Mormon archaeology class taught by Dr. Webber at BYU. It was a fascinating class. The only textbook we had to follow for the Book of Mormon was one written by Grant Palmer which was not a perfect book, but it was the only one available. As most of you know Grant Palmer eventually was excommunicated from the church for reasons that I am unaware of.
As far as I know, this was the first published attempt at describing the Central American model and giving proposed names of cities and existing locations and comparing them to possible Book of Mormon citations. Since that time there have been many other ones with far better scholarship including John Sorensen and others. With the new revelation this year from National Geographic doing a LIDAR laser scan of the country of Guatemala and revealing incredibly large cities hidden in the jungles all of these years, there is a lot of information that is yet to come forth.
Dr. Webber then told a story about a man who was in his class the year before I was in it. I will call him Juan, but I do not know his real name. He was from Mexico and had joined the church recently and did not know many of the details regarding the Book of Mormon. When Dr. Webber started talking about Mormon and Moroni hiding up plates in a cave, Juan entirely lit up and got very excited. He stood up in the middle of class and loudly spoke to everyone saying, “I’ve been there! I’ve seen that cave!”
Dr. Webber then asked him, “What do you mean?”
Juan then said, “I have never been out of Mexico until coming here to BYU. When I was just a child, my parents belonged to some secret organization. I must’ve been only four or five years old but they took us to a meeting, and it was in a room that was in a cave and there were all kinds of gold plates along the wall and on the floor. My parents were not members of the church and died a few years ago. When I go back to Mexico, I’m going to look for them again. I have seen these plates in that cave! I had no idea what all of this meant and I had forgotten all about them. Now I need to find them!“
A couple of years ago I called Dr. Webber and asked him about this story. It had been 30 years since I took that class and I didn’t even know if he was still alive, but he was. I asked him if he remembered telling us the story and wondering what the outcome had been?
He replied, “Oh yes, I remember telling you that story. It’s true. In fact, Juan recently called me saying that he was still looking for them. He had not found them yet as he was too little to remember exactly where it took place, but he considers it his life’s mission to find them.”
Now obviously, this story does not prove much of anything and it could be said that it may be a completely different cave than the one Joseph and Oliver went into to return the plates, but I doubt it. That would just be far too coincidental to think there are TWO caves containing gold plates!
In our skeptical society, few will accept and believe anything that they cannot measure with the five senses. But for me, I know where to concentrate my efforts in any study regarding the geography of events in the Book of Mormon. I will not waste any time on anything that doesn’t fit that model because there is no point in doing so. And in one sense its actually good that we don’t have all that detail like the Bible does because it takes so much energy away from studying his word. Too many get lost in the intellectual details of history and geography and forget the spirituality of this amazing book.
There is one more thing I want to talk about though, and that is the whole issue of Hebrew writings on a variety of materials found in eastern America. If these are real and are not hoaxes, there’s a perfect explanation as to who they could be. Jacob himself may even infer that he knew about them in the Book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 10:21-22.
21 But great are the promises of the Lord unto them who are upon the isles of the sea; wherefore as it says isles, there must needs be more than this, and they are inhabited also by our brethren.
22 For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure. And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also.
Notice in verse 21 that he claimed that our brethren also inhabits the isles of the sea. The isles of the sea are not the Polynesian islands, the Hawaiian Islands, or any other islands at this time, as most of the references regarding isles of the sea by Isaiah and other prophets, specifically, refer to the Americas. In other words, Jacob knows that there are inhabitants of North and South America descended from the Hebrews and they have come here at different times under the direction of the Lord.
They have nothing to do with the people, places, and events of the Book of Mormon. Yes, they may be Hebrews but they are entirely different groups, and it is wrong to try to force them into some model by stretching beyond credulity the geographies contained in the internal evidence of the Book of Mormon. Everything that occurred in the Book of Mormon in the New World (after they arrived here) must fit in an area approximately 175 miles wide and 350 miles long or tall. (One author claims that it may be a bit larger at 250×500, still far smaller than any Heartland model). Anything outside of those dimensions does not work. It also must be:
- A land of volcanoes (there are none anywhere near New York)
- A land where the major river runs south to north (not north-to-south like the Mississippi)
- The Hill Cumorah must be near the East Sea (the one on New York is way too far away)
- It must be a place where the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans are relatively close together
- It must be a land where Gold, Silver, Copper and other materials are mined (No, they didn’t mine them all so that’s why they can’t find them. The only mine that possibly fits is a Copper mine in Minnesota, but there are no Gold or Silver mines in the East)
- And it must be in a tropical climate, etc.
In other words, the only model that most closely reflects these points is Central America.
Now since we have a map drawn by Joseph Smith himself showing the approximate locations of where Moroni traveled, there is no need to spend any time or money following those who would want to sell you videos and books of other models to make money. They are not faith promoting. It is a blatant denial of facts and evidence we have. Of course, the Church has wisely not taken a stance on this issue because it has not been revealed exactly where these events took place, and since there is much more to be revealed as shown in the National Geographic laser scan, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.
One more thing. Those who promote the heartland model continuously point to words in the Book of Mormon about giving the house of Jacob this land. They also point to the promises about the new Jerusalem being built upon this land and claim that America is the only one that fits it because it is the only one that doesn’t have kings or queens ruling it. In all honesty, this is a fairly flimsy claim. Joseph Smith himself said that the entirety of North and South America is Zion from the highest tip-up north to the bottom of the land of Chile is all Zion.
They are also fond of claiming that Columbus landed in the promised land. Hello! Columbus landed in San Salvador and never made it to the future United States.
All of the Native American people in both North and South America from the Incas, the Aztecs, the Mayans, the Iroquois, the Hopis, the Shoshone, the Paiute, the Cheyenne, and the aboriginal tribes in the Amazon jungle all fit under the title of Lamanites. Since the mid-1970s, these people have started coming into the church in greater and greater numbers. This fulfills a prophecy given by the Lord himself stating that when “this people” shall begin to believe these things, then shall the great gathering take place. Read 3 Nephi 21 and see the incredible prophecies regarding this issue.
In the not-too-distant future, the gospel will be taken from the Gentiles and returned to the house of Israel. I would say more but the spirit stops my utterance. (Update: please read my post on the Sword of God on May 27, 2020, for more details).
It is imperative that we maintain our faith in those things which are true, that we stick with and follow the true prophet of the church and keep our eye upon him. It is imperative that we not fall victim to an enormous number of theories and false prophets that are seeking a following.
In 1986, President Ezra Taft Benson spoke in the April General Conference and gave an incredible talk about the need to read the Book of Mormon. He quoted the verses in D&C 84 about how the Lord was displeased with the members for taking the Book of Mormon lightly. Here are the verses:
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
Then, President Benson said that this condemnation still rested upon the church! It had been 154 years and still, the church had not paid attention to this incredible book the way he had intended!
Something hit me that day. I had gone to seminary (although I was not a very good student), I had gone on my mission and fell in love with the Scriptures (it was Jacob chapter 5 that made me fall in love with the Book of Mormon), I had taken classes at BYU and was a reasonably regular reader of my Scriptures, but still, something was not right. I had not taken the Book of Mormon to be my personal guide, my Liahona to guide me as it was intended.
That was 32 years ago, but I remember it still to this day because I promised the Lord that day that I would read my Book of Mormon every day. I have only missed 56 days in those 32 years, and I can tell you that this is the most marvelous book on the face of the earth. It was written for you. It was written for me. By reading it and applying the teachings and principles into our lives, we can find our way back home to our heavenly father. We can find the answers to the problems we face in life. We can find out how to be a better father or mother, and we can find the answers to principles of science, business, politics, psychology, geology, geography, and just about any other subject because we see things through the eyes of the Lord and not the eyes of the world.
I have had so many incredible experiences reading my Book of Mormon it would be impossible to start to explain them all. Most of the time it comes as the sweet, still small voice but other times it’s almost as if an angel was standing right next to me. I love this book!
Now, on a related note, I recently had an incredibly strange discussion with a member of the church who believes in a flat earth. He’s blatantly ignoring millions of facts that the Lord has blessed us with through the technology and science we have today. When I see people who try to force the heartland model on the rest of the members, it’s almost as if I’m talking to a flat-earther. There really is no reason to twist and distort the numerous facts we have to fit something that they want.
But the reality is that all of this time spent trying to find specific locations of events in cities is taking time away from the actual study of this book. We are promised that if we will accept and believe that which we have been given, we will then be blessed with the rest of the sealed portion. All of these things are a distraction from the reason it is given to us in the first place!
Do you know what is in the sealed portion? I’m surprised how many people do not know what is in them even though the Book of Mormon itself tells us what is in them. It contains a history of the earth from its pre-mortal design and conception, through its creation, its fall, it’s mortality, it’s death and eventual resurrection to a celestial sphere. It answers all of the great questions that people have regarding how this earth came to be. Don’t you want to know what that is? Wouldn’t you rather have that information instead of arguing about how Florida could possibly fit the model of the narrow neck of land?
That is what I want. I want that information! I want to know the history of this earth and all of the people on it and all of that is contained in the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon that we do not have yet. I am urging everybody I know to get back to studying the book for themselves, to improve themselves and repent and share this gospel with everybody they can come in contact with because there are incredible changes that are about to take place on earth that the vast majority of the world has no idea what is going to happen.
Ignore all of these geographical models. Don’t worry about any of the locations and just concentrate on the message of the book and how it can change your life and then we can be blessed with the rest of the translation of the Sealed Portion! All of this contention is not leading toward that outcome and has become a great distraction.
I’m begging you to read this book. There is nothing like it on the face of the earth!
I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
ADDITIONAL NOTES: MAY 24, 2020
There are 3 groups of people in the Church that I have a hard time trying to reason with: 1-Flat Earthers, 2-Heartlanders and 3-Evolutionists.
Since this blog post is about Heartlanders, let me discuss some of the things that have happened in defending the Mesoamerican model.
One person claimed that I must be part of the BYU group that was making money off the tours going to Guatemala and that’s why I’m so fiercely defending it. I pointed out that I’ve never even been to Guatemala let alone made money taking anyone on tours there. I have no financial interest in either model.
I do have a spiritual interest though and that’s what concerns me.
I never want to see members deceived over any subject because once deception enters in it seems that more deceptions creep in.
Take Jake Hilton for example. He once claimed that the Heartland model got him back into the church. He couldn’t understand the Central American one and felt so “inspired” by the Heartland one that he came back from inactivity. He then made extensive lengthy videos promoting the whole concept and sharing his testimony. Some were very long, between 5 and 8 hours!
Over time he started criticizing the church leadership, then he spoke against them claiming the only true prophet was Joseph Smith. As his hair and beard grew longer and he tried to be like Michael Rood (a Jewish historian on YouTube) he now denounces the Book of Mormon altogether and claims that only the Bible is God’s word.
Now is that going to happen to everyone who follows this? No, but he is not the only one that has happened to. Now, of course, there are those who claim the exact opposite and they left the church because of those who promoted the Meso American model as you will see below.
People leave the church for a whole host of reasons and one of them is spending too much time on the geography and not drinking from the book’s teachings. That was the point of this blog. I am hoping people would see that there are things out there that are hard and fast witnesses against the Heartland model and the Lord has very wisely NOT given us empirical evidence yet showing exactly where things happened in the book!
Speaking of people who left the church, while I normally would not post something on here that would lead someone away from a belief in the religion that I love, there is an interesting lesson that can be observed from the following article about a man who worked like crazy many years ago trying to prove that the Mesoamerican model was the one where the Book of Mormon occurred.
The reason I’m including it here is because of an important principle: we can’t force anything when it comes to spiritual issues. As soon as we try to force something, the spirit leaves. There also seems to be an underlying desire on this man’s part to have physical evidence of the Book of Mormon’s proof or existence. This is not a good idea.
In fact, I believe this is the main reason we don’t have a city with the name of Nephi on it, a river named Sidon, or know the exact place that Jesus appeared to his other sheep.
Physical evidence does not prove anything spiritual.
The proof of this amazing book comes only through the Spirit of God by following his prescribed outline of reading about it, desiring to know if it is true, praying to God with sincere intent and asking if it is true. If you follow these steps, you will find out it is true. You will not find out it is true by all of a sudden somebody showing up with a photograph of an archaeological find with Zarahemla carved on it!
I can’t express to you how important this principle is, yet it seems to be an undercurrent in all of these things. This group that is doing a fundraiser to pay for an archaeological dig to discover the city of Zarahemla that is right across from the city of Nauvoo is completely preposterous. In fact, it is downright dangerous. They are now asking people to donate money and invest their time and energy into their cause. That makes it much harder to leave once other evidence shows that it’s false. This is nothing short of priestcraft in its worst form. I am encouraging you not to donate absolutely anything to this archaeological and spiritual disaster.
D&C 50 was written regarding people like this warning us not to be deceived by their energetic actions.
Here’s one of the main principles by which you can know that someone is trying to deceive you regarding these things: how much money are they making from it? People like Wayne Mae, Rod Meldrum, and Jonathan Neville are all doing their best to promote the Heartland model when in reality all they are defending is a profitable source of income.
Someone even told me today that what these people are doing is causing, “giant conferences of over 7000 people in attendance and therefore it should be proof that that is true what they are doing.”
I told her flat out: there are many people who have left the church because of the teachings of Julie Rowe, Jake Hilton, Denver Snuffer, and several others. We should be extremely wary of these types of events drawing these people away from the need to read the Book of Mormon and drink from its depths instead of worrying about geography. It proves NOTHING other than people are easily deceived by bold claims and pretended spiritual motives.
Just remember, Satan has great power. His greatest tool is deception. I have talked with people who have had friends that had “energy healings” done by these people and they said it took them months to overcome the damage that was done.
This is not something to be trifled with. That is why I am so adamant about this, I do not want to see anyone jumping ship and leaving the church. Never allow deception of any kind into your life. Never get even 1 degree off course.
Here is an excellent article by Joe V. Andersen and Ted Dee Stoddard who have done a far greater job than I have in numerous details regarding the subject.
Be sure and read their analysis of where Columbus landed and its significance towards Heartlander claims.
The same authors have created a PDF that can be downloaded here regarding a very detailed analysis of this subject.
Does the Mississippi River qualify as the River Sidon? No, and for a host of reasons, first of all being that the River Sidon MUST run South to North. Did you catch that? NOT North to South, but South to North. It is undeniable unless you are a Heartlander who denies just about every geographic reference in the Book of Mormon.
There are many articles on FairMormon.org that discuss several details and theories surrounding the Heartland model and proving them all incorrect. I don’t need to list them all here because there are many. Once you get on the website you will see what I’m talking about using their search feature. I only wish to point out two for now:
This one has to do with many people pointing to the so-called DNA evidence that proves the Book of Mormon people are in North America. This article refutes those propositions.
The “Zelph” incident
This is constantly used to defend the Heartland Model but it isn’t as simple as they want it to be.
While the following is written by an anonymous person that goes by the name of Peter Pan, he has done a marvelous job of dissecting Jonathan Neville’s proposals regarding the heartland model. Sadly I believe that Jonathan is on the same path as Jake Hilton where he is developing a following but eventually will not be able to support it and thus will find himself fighting against that which he once proposed. I pray that that does not happen.
Here are the absolutely fascinating LIDAR scans that were done by National Geographic in February 2018. Please note that none of these things were done by members of the church and yet if you look closely you will see many of the things described in the Book of Mormon especially ramps of earth with pickets on top, something they don’t even point out, but I noticed it.
Some claim that the land has changed so drastically that we can’t possibly know where things took place. Well, there are several problems with that concept:
1-Why did Joseph Smith draw that map (see above)?
2-Why did he say that the events of the Book of Mormon occurred around Central America? (His statements have changed over the years as more information was learned about the geography of the continent.)
3-If the whole landmass was “as one” how would Moroni know the location of the Hill Ramah was the same one as Cumorah, at least 1000 years later and after the great destruction that occurred during Christ’s crucifixion?
4-How could there have been a narrow neck of land between the oceans if it was all as one?
The fact is, the Meso American model is the one closest to the possible locations referred to in the Book of Mormon. The Heartland model does not qualify in any way when it comes to geography.
July 7, 2020. Here is a new video that discusses the Internal Map in the Book of Mormon. This does NOT say that the events in the book occurred in Central America, but it does show what needs to be followed when comparing proposed models of geographical alternatives. They have several versions of the Map available for download HERE.
More to come. I don’t have all the answers yet, no one does because it hasn’t been revealed yet. I suggest you not waste time on any geographical model and especially don’t give money supporting any archeological dig, buy any videos, books, tapes, anything that is along this subject. Just read the Book of Mormon itself. It’s the best thing in the world and these diversions just lead us away from it and from God.