Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Essential Features of Geography

The scholars and educators who focus on Book of Mormon geography typically compile a list of "Essential Features of Geography" to support their preferred theory.

The lists are inevitably ridiculous because they rely on circular reasoning. In every case I know of, the authors first decide where in the world they think the Book of Mormon took place, then they tailor their interpretation of the text to match their conclusion.

For the North American setting, there is also a list of Essential Features. Here it is:

1. Letter VII
2. Mormon 6:6


I can tell you're disappointed. Most LDS scholars and educators come up with at least 10 items. Sometimes as many as 30 or more. They figure the more "Essential Features" they concoct, the more certain their models and theories appear.

Of course, their lists are illusory. They're like the imaginary "correspondences" between the Book of Mormon and Mayan culture. These features are also found in most human cultures, but because both the Nephites and the Mayans had farms, or armor, or battles, or fortified cities, or flags, supposedly these features demonstrate a "correspondence" between the Nephites and Mayans, which in turn means the Nephites were Mayans. Except they weren't, really, but they lived among the Mayans. Or at least, they lived where the Mayans lived. But you have to have a PhD to understand all of this.

If you've stumbled across these lists of "Essential Features," you've undoubtedly noticed they usually include volcanoes and jungles and other features that aren't in the text, but can be "reasonably inferred."

The real challenge would be to come up with a geographic feature that could not be inferred from the text.

The list of "Essential Features" for the North American setting focuses on a certain hill in western New York named Cumorah. It's the pin in the map given to us by modern prophets and apostles.

From there, we can work out the rest of the geography. As the prophets and apostles have said, the rest of the geography hasn't been revealed, so it's up to us to sort it out. Many variations have been proposed. You're free to pick and choose, or, even better, to develop your own.

If you do develop your own list of "Essential Features," I recommend you don't follow the example of LDS scholars and educators.

The one thing they refuse to put on their lists is Letter VII. They think that accepting and following the prophets and apostles is not "academically vigorous" or is too confining and restricts "academic freedom."

Besides, what's the fun of having the answer given to you? Far better to repudiate the prophets and apostles and spend an entire career searching for Cumorah in Mexico. 

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