Contact The Author

William Peter Midgley
Jacksonville, Florida
Phone: (913) 219-2934

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS – Following are questions that have been asked as part of the question and answer period following the various lectures as well as some questions that have been the subject of general interest.

1.  Question: According to The North America Model, which locates the land of Nephi south of the Ohio River, why is the “land of Nephi” not north of the Ohio River rather than south considering that Joseph Smith referred to traveling through the “plains of Nephi” while on the journey of Zion’s Camp through Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri?

Answer: There is no place referred to as the “plains of Nephi” in the Book of Mormon, like the “plains of Agosh”. When writing to Emma Smith, as reported in the Millennial Star, Joseph actually referred to the lands in which they were traveling as the “plains of the Nephites”, not the “plains of Nephi”. After Mosiah traveled north and discovered the Mulekites and they merged as “Nephites” in the north in the land of Zarahemla, the “land/plains of the Nephites” was in the land of Zarahemla in the north while the “land of the Lamanites” was in the land of Nephi in the south.  Joseph was referring to the land in which the Nephites resided.

2.  Question: What about the great destruction at the time of Christ’s crucifixion in which, among other things, the city of Moroni sank into the sea, etc? Where was that city?

Answer: The city of Moroni was near the east sea on the straight line between the Lamanites on the south and the Nephites on the north (Alma 50:8 & 13).  3 Nephi 8 describes great destruction from tempests, whirlwinds, thunderings, lightnings and earthquakes.  Some cities were burned, some sank into the “sea”, some were covered up with earth, and there was great destruction both north and south, affecting the whole face of the land from the sea east to the west, including the city of Zarahemla in the center of the country. The graphic description of the changes in the land was certainly influenced by the extent of the destruction across the land. However, it is not inconsistent with the destruction that the New Madrid Earthquake zone in southeast Missouri could unleash.  It is one of the most powerful seismic zones in North America that has affected the entire eastern United States, such as the 1811-12 earthquake which was felt from Missouri to Massachusetts to South Carolina and in which the course of the Mississippi River was changed and it flowed upstream as if a tsunami. The New Madrid Fault has a cycle of 3-400 years which is consistent with tracing back to the time of Christ.  In addition, concurrent with the earthquake destruction was the report of whirlwinds, which are an apt description of tornadoes which are consistent with the term "tornado alley" that is applied to the land of The North America Model.

Also, the city of Moroni near the east sea may well have been on, or near, the Chesapeake Bay estuary system as the sea extension of the Atlantic Ocean, more specifically the western extent of the Potomac River estuary before it turns north to Washington D.C., as shown in the Composite Map of The North America Model.  The entire Chesapeake Bay with its tributary estuaries is the largest sea estuary in the United States, all of which are the extension of rivers feeding into it, such as the Susquehanna River valley from the north and the Potomac River valley from the west to below sea level.  According to the USGS publication on the The Chesapeake Bay: Geologic Product of a Rising Sea Level, that location has been subject to a history of submergence due to rising sea levels over centuries.  (Quote) "Islands once populated in colonial time and during the past century have disappeared due to submergence and related shore erosion. The artifacts of early European settlers and prehistoric peoples are sometimes found by watermen working over land areas now covered by the shallow waters of the bay.  (Unquote).  It is entirely possible that such a submergence, or subsidence, could have been concurrent with, and/or precipitated by, a major New Madrid earthquake event causing shifting coastal sands or inundated from a hurricane (tempest) caused storm surge and resultant land erosion.   A location near Aquia Harbor VA at the end of the Aquia Creek arm of the Potomac estuary is at the sea east end of the east to west straight Nephite boundary line (Alma 50:8).

3. Question: The North America Model seems to require large distances for travel from land to land and from city to city. Does than not seem to be a problem?

Answer: The distances described for the Nephites and Lamanites are no different from those experienced by the Pilgrims and Colonials from 1620 to the 1800’s leading up to and following the formation of the United States of America. If fact, they are less distance considering the Corps of Discovery which traveled the entire width of the continent in 1803-05, or compared with the experience of Zion’s Camp and the subsequent multiple treks west to Utah with no greater technology for travel. In fact, the path of travel for George Washington in the 1750’s to western Pennsylvania to fight the French and Indian Wars was very likely the same path used by the 2000 stripling soldiers from Jershon in the east to Manti in western Pennsylvania to fight the Lamanites for the liberty of their country in 63 B.C.  Also, there are ancient Indian trails throughout the lands of The North America Model that coincide with the paths of the Lamanite and Nephite travels such as the Nemacolin Indian trail following the general alignment of US 40 from the Shenandoah Valley in the east to the Monongahela River crossing at Brownsville PA, the site of an ancient Mound Builder's fort.  That trail in the 1750's was known as the Braddock Road which General Washington used to travel to Fort Necessity in SW Pennsylvania.

As an example of similar travel distances of Indians during Colonial times, note the following.   This is From Indian Trails of the Southeast by William E Myers, the Forty-second annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1924-25 as included in the 2009 Facsimile Reprint of the Gustavs Library.

Page 736 - “Gabriel Arthur, who was captured by some Indians of upper East Tennessee, probably somewhere on the French Broad River, claimed to have accompanied them in a raid on the Spaniards in Florida.  After their return and a short rest they raided an Indian town near the present site of Port Royal, S.C., and after another short rest they went on a visit to a friendly tribe on the Great Kanawha Rver, about a day’s march from the place where it empties into the Ohio (interesting location comparison with Alma’s one day march in the valley of Gideon, Alma 2:20).   When they started on their return trip they could not resist the temptation to go out of their way to attack a Shawnee village near the present site of Portsmouth, Ohio.  Thus from December, 1673, to May 1674, or a little over five months, they went from the French Broad to Florida, a distance of about 450 miles; from the French Broad to Port Royal, a distance of about 350 miles; and from the French Broad to Portsmouth, Ohio, a distance of about 200 miles.  They also made a hunting trip of about 200 miles by canoe during this period.  Nothing in the story of these forays indicates that the Indians regarded them as extraordinary.” 

For the record, the distances indicated above are one way distances.  In other words, the round trip distance, including to the Great Kanawha River town, was about 2400 miles.  It was done over a period of about 160 days.  Allowing 40 days for rest, raiding and visiting, that pace averages about 20 miles per day, which was not considered as “extraordinary”.         

4.  Question: The Book of Mormon refers to buildings made with “cement”.  How does that fit into The North America Model?

Answer: First we need to make a distinction between “cement” and “concrete”. Cement is a binding agent that is used in many products, including concrete, stucco, bricks, plaster, etc. It is certainly not referring to “reinforced concrete" as we understand it today. The primitive construction technique of “wattle and daub” is a system that uses wood slats as a base covered by material that resembles plaster made out of fine aggregates, mud, dung, etc with a cement binder of lime or other similar material. It is not a particularly permanent material that can withstand deterioration under normal weather cycles over long periods of time unless compounded per highly technical processes and mixtures. Since it refers its use in the land of Desolation, which had experienced serious deforestation under the likely impact of being a seasonally cold climate, it also gives credibility to the land of Desolation being located in the north country where it is shown in The North America Model surrounded by seas on all sides.

5.  Question: What about that man, Hagoth, who built an exceedingly large ship and sailed away, eventually never to return. Where did that take place?

Answer: The story of Hagoth explains lots of things. It confirms the locations of Bountiful, Desolation, the narrow neck which led to the land northward, and the issue of a shipping industry in the Book of Mormon. Alma 63:5 explains, ”And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward.”  The North America Model brings all of those lands and features together along with the land of Zarahemla abutting the land Bountiful at that point (Alma 22:31). Helaman 3:10 explains that there was a shipping industry that must have been on the Great Lakes serving the “land northward” due to the scarcity of timber.  10 "And it came to pass as timber was exceedingly scarce in the land northward, they did send forth much by the way of shipping." The reason for a ship building industry at the present day Buffalo NY location is that one had to build ships there due to the Niagara Escarpment that discouraged bringing boats, especially extremely large ships, from the east sea, Lake Ontario, to the west sea, Lake Erie, and the rest of the Great Lakes.

6.   Question: What archaeological evidence is there that supports The North America Model?

Answer:  In addition to significant artifacts found over the past two centuries throughout the eastern United States that are on exhibit at the US National Park Service's Hopewell Culture National Park at Chillicothe OH, the existence of a well researched advanced culture, the Hopewell Culture (the Mound Builders) which left 1000’s of earthen mounds throughout the Midwest from Nebraska, to Virginia, from Minnesota to Mississippi, and centered in the Ohio valley, and which existed anywhere from 1000-200 B.C. until it disappeared around 4-500 A.D for unexplained reasons, is significant archaeological evidence that anyone can access for their own study.  

More specifically, many trails throughout the south and the north in the United States have been documented by independent historical individuals and groups in the 20th century which have since proved to be consistent with Book of Mormon events as located by the North America Model for the Book of Mormon long after the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. A major document of many trails throughout the southeast USA is a book by William E. Myers "Indian Trails of the Southeast" in association with the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institute in 1925.  Another pertinent example of significant direct archaeological evidence for Book of Mormon stories is the Seip Earthworks of the Hopewell Culture in southern Ohio which has been dated in the 20th century by the National Park Service as existing from 200 B.C. to 400 A.D which matches the exact dates from when Mosiah discovered the Mulekites in the north to the time of the destruction of the Nephites around 400 A.D. and describes exactly the events of Mosiah 2 where king Benjamin spoke to the people from the tower as they are gathered around the temple in their tents.

 7.   Question:  What roll does DNA play in support of The North America Model?

Answer: Refer to www.LDS.org for an article, Book of Mormon and DNA, which addresses the issue of DNA.  Due to a wide variety of factors in terms of population bottlenecks and genetic drift, among other things, which reduces the possibility of conclusive determination of DNA markers, DNA is not considered a key element in support of the geography of The North America Model.  In forensic science, there are two sources of evidence that are significantly conclusive in determining a probable connection to a subject, i.e. DNA and fingerprints.  The presence of either, without the other, can result in a conclusion of high probability.  The more important factor in The North America Model is the geographic fingerprint provided by the written record.  That is not to say that DNA evidence does not now exist, nor that it may not become more evident in the future; but it is just not a factor in the conclusions of this work. 

However, the apparent inconclusive nature of DNA now does not diminish the evidentiary value of the written geographic fingerprint.  It takes only a few features in fingerprints that are shared in common by all people, such as loops, whorls, ridges, valleys and arches to identify with certainty an individual out of millions when the relationships and patterns are studied.  So can the fingerprint of the geography of land features, such as hills, valleys, bodies of water, narrow necks of land, etc., which are common to many land masses, be used to determine the geographic fingerprint of the Book of Mormon from Jerusalem to Cumorah by the analysis of the relationships of direction and distances, along with other keys for interpretation.  The lecture and the book address that fingerprint in a compelling way that has resulted in the comments included elsewhere in this website.     

Recently, Rod Meldrum of FIRM, produced a video on the link of Hebrew DNA to North America Indians; and while, as he says, it is not required to prove the Book of Mormon is true, it is does support that premise. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mADM3RYKl5Y&feature=youtu.be

Other resources that address the DNA of Midest and Eastern American Indian tribes of the United States include the following:

This from the National Geographic in 2013: file:///C:/Users/BillM/Documents/Religion/DNA%20evidence/'Great%20Surprise'%E2%80%94Native%20Americans%20Have%20West%20Eurasian%20Origins.htm

This from the Native News Online from 2017: file:///C:/Users/BillM/Documents/Religion/DNA%20evidence/DNA%20scientists%20claim%20that%20Cherokees%20are%20from%20the%20Middle%20East%20%E2%80%93%20Natives%20News%20Online.htm

8. Question: What about the tradition that Hagoth’s exceedingly large ship was related to the populating of the Polynesian Islands in the Pacific?  Does the North America Model address that?

Answer:  While the Book of Mormon does not directly support that tradition,that is not to say that other events involving descendants of Lehi not recorded in the Book of Mormon may have occurred outside of the narrative, or the time frame, of the Book of Mormon that could have resulted in that tradition. However, the role of the author of The North America Model is to only address what the Book of Mormon narrative describes, not to speculate about other possible narratives. The only potential source for that tradition from the Book of Mormon is found in Alma 63.  The following is from the North America Model book describing Hagoth and the events of Alma 63, more specifically verses 4-10.  

Alma 63 (56-52 B.C.) – Hagoth and his ships describe “the west sea” located between the land of Zarahemla, southward, and the land Desolation, northward.   After Moroni died (v. 3) in 56 B.C., a large number of Nephites migrated northward. (v. 4) ”And it came to pass…there was a large company of men … with their wives and their children, departed out of the land of Zarahemla into the land which was northward (Desolation).” To facilitate that large migration, Hagoth “…built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led to into the land northward” (v. 5). Launched at the east end of the west sea (Lake Erie) near the narrow neck, along with “…other ships…” built by Hagoth (vs. 7), they sailed many people and their provisions from the land of Zarahemla on the south to the land northward (Desolation) and to return later for many more people and more provisions for “…the people who had gone forth into that land.” (vs. 4-10)  After the first ship returned for more people and provisions, they apparently sank and “…were never heard of more…”, as did another ship later. (vs. 7-8).  Shipwrecks on Lake Erie are not uncommon.

9. Question: Why did it take Lehi 8 years to travel the relatively short distance from Nahum to the place called Bountiful in the southern Arabian Peninsula? (1 Nephi 17:4)

Answer: While it is only about 900-1000 miles by foot “nearly east” (v. 1) from eastern Yemen across the Yemeni Desert region to the southern coast of eastern Oman near Salalah, Oman, along the present day Route 45, 8 years does not represent a continuous daily journey along the way. 

It must be remembered, the journey from Jerusalem to Nahum was interrupted by several events that were recorded in the Book of Mormon, such as when the brothers returned to Jerusalem a couple of times, by Lehi’s instructions to his family, by segments of travel including 4 days to Camp Shazer south of the river Laman, to intermittent segments of a "space of many days" traveling southsoutheast through the “borders” along the west coast of Arabia, including the time when Nephi broke his bow, made a new one and hunted, to another segment for a “space of many days” ultimately to Nahum, where the family stayed for a while where Ishmael died.  The 8 years from there “nearly east” to the land called Bountiful was probably just as segmented as they went from oasis to oasis, where the women bore children, and where events similar to those recorded for the journey up to then took place but which were not important in the abridgement of the record other than to document the general direction and time frame in the greater scheme of things. 

10. Question:  Who wrote the Book of Mormon?

Answer:  There is no disagreement that the Book of Mormon exists. But the question among skeptics is, “Where did it come from?” Or “What is its actual origin?” It is a fact that it was published in Palmyra, New York, in 1830 for and on behalf of Joseph Smith Jr.; but for the non-believer, the debate ever since has been, “But who wrote it?”  

In reality, there are only two options. It is either: 1) as described by Joseph Smith Jr., a product of divine intervention, or 2) the work of actual early 19th century authors who fabricated it. Regarding the second option, the two questions are: 1) was it written by, as yet, an unidentified author of which none has been found; or 2) was it, as many antagonists claim, a product of Joseph Smith Jr himself independently or in collusion with individuals such as Sydney Rigdon or Oliver Cowdery, as examples, or by borrowing from works of Solomon Spaulding, Ethan Smith, or other writers at that time? No other options have been suggested.

Certainly, Solomon Spaulding, Ethan Smith, nor any other contemporary writer, has been suggested as the direct author of the Book of Mormon; nor has there been a direct connection made of their work with the Book of Mormon other than the common fascination during that time period with the origin of the American Indians, a fascination that may actually derive from oral traditions handed down by Native Americans themselves further enhanced by Biblically educated curiosity originating from the colonists.

No evidence has surfaced that would suggest any author, or combination of authors, wrote the Book of Mormon as a complete work, such as separate original handwritten manuscripts, or edited pages of the work-in-progress as one would expect from an author writing such a complex work from scratch in the 1800’s. The only extant full manuscript is the printer’s manuscript that Joseph Smith’s principal scribe, Oliver Cowdery, copied from the original manuscript which Oliver and other scribes recorded while Joseph was translating. Absent direct corroborating evidence of collaborators, many rely on innuendo and conjecture to suggest potential opportunities for Joseph Smith to co-author the work with any one of several other individuals in the course of his young teenage and early twenties life in frontier America.

Regardless of claims of questionable literary value as was derided by Mark Twain, there is no dispute that the Book of Mormon is a complex literary work with integrated stories and time lines from beginning to end, overlaid by flash backs, consistent genealogies, a mix of detailed military conflicts along with religious teachings, and an internal geography that is surprisingly accurate in both Arabia and North America when tested against information not readily available until the late 19th through to the 21st centuries, long after the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830. It is to this subject that this discussion provides focus.

Regarding Joseph Smith’s potential for being its secular author, a time line, as described in the “Joseph Smith--History” in the Pearl of Great Price, is instructive. Joseph was born in December 1805 in Vermont. In 1815 when he was 9 (his 10th year), his family moved to Palmyra NY; and in 1819, they moved to the Smith farm near Manchester south of Palmyra where the family of 11 lived in a small log home with an attic. It was shortly after that in 1820 when Joseph was 14 that he had the experience of the “First Vision” followed three year later in September 1823 by the visit of the angel Moroni while Joseph was still a teenager at the age of 17.   It is certainly not reasonable for someone like Joseph Smith, at such a young age with only a home school education and living in a small log home with 11 people along with the rigors of daily farm life existence in the frontier world of western New York, to even consider writing something as complex as the Book of Mormon, or even have a reason to do so.

In October 1825, when Joseph was 19 years old, he traveled to northeast Pennsylvania where he was employed by Josiah Stoal to help find an old rumored Spanish silver mine in Susquehanna County, during which time he lived with the Isaac Hale family, whose daughter, Emma, he married in January 1827.   He and Emma returned to Manchester in 1827 to help Joseph’s father farm for the season after which he obtained the plates in September 1827 at the age of 21. Again, such experiences of travel, employment and getting married does not suggest any sort of rigorous searching of literary or other resources, or the time or place to do so, sufficient to write something at the level and complexity of the Book of Mormon.  If Joseph wrote the Book of Mormon on his own, it would have had to have been done by the age of 21, an accomplishment not likely for someone of his education and life’s experiences in frontier America.  

After obtaining the plates in September 1827, Joseph was subjected to extreme persecution which caused him and Emma to return to Pennsylvania to the home of Emma’s father in December 1827; and in April 1829, Oliver Cowdery showed up at the Hale home after learning about Joseph and the plates from Joseph’s father in Palmyra. Oliver was immediately interested in helping with the translation which began in earnest leading up to the manuscript being delivered to the Grandin Print Shop in late 1829 and eventually its publication in April 1830.  During this time, outside of the much discussed, documented and debated description of the translation process, there is no indication of rigorous academic research by anyone into other literary works of dubious relationship or into subject matter on geography and archaeology, both in Arabia and North America, which would indicate awareness to the extent and detail necessary to seamlessly integrate them into the fabric of the narrative, of which much was not even available until the late 19th century and into the 21st century.  

The purpose of this article is to summarize geography and archaeology issues that would be problematic for anyone, especially a young man from early 19th century frontier America, with limited education, and lack of travel experience beyond western New York and northeastern Pennsylvania or access to extensive academic and literary resources such as large research libraries or opportunities for collaboration with others who may be more educated, experienced or literate, necessary to write such a work. Following are some things that any author in 1820-29 would have had difficulty in knowing, either in its totality or of things that were not even known at the time. These items are as documented by “The North America Model for the Book of Mormon”.

In Arabia

  • A continuously flowing river of water from Arabia, the river Laman, into the “fountain of the Red Sea”, the Gulf of Aqaba, through a 2000’ deep granite canyon, the valley of Lemuel, was not discovered and documented until 1999 by George Potter.
  • The description of the journey to the river of water as following the shore of the Red Sea where the mountains are “near the shore of the Red Sea” and then traveling in the mountains for 3 days where the mountains were “nearer the Red Sea”, even to its shore (1 Nephi 2:5-6) was implied in the George Potter 1999 article and further supported by 21st century Google maps technology.
  • The location of Nahom south southeast from the river Laman about 700 miles to the present state of Yemen was documented by S. Kent Brown in 2001.
  • The location of the land of Bountiful in Arabia was documented by Warren P. Aston in 1998 from where Lehi’s family sailed to the land of promise, and that it is located very specifically “nearly east” (not just east or directly east) from Nahom.

Lehi’s Sea Voyage

  • The direction of Lehi’s voyage being east to west clockwise around the African Cape of Good Hope to the east coast of North America was confirmed with a high degree of probability by the History Channel documentary of a replica of a 600 B.C. Phoenicia ship expedition conducted in 2009, though that was not its purpose. The Book of Mormon narrative for Lehi’s sea journey is compatible with that 2009 expedition to within 400 miles of land in the Americas, in addition to inclusion in the narrative of a major storm shortly before landing consistent with south Atlantic tropical storms coming from Africa to the east coast of North America.

In the Land of Promise – Land of Nephi

  • The location of a series of ancient “Indian” trails in southeast United States was documented in 1925 by Wm F Meyers in the 42nd annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology to the Smithsonian Institute, almost 100 years after publication of the Book of Mormon. While the Smithsonian has stated unequivocally that the Book of Mormon has never been used in any of its archaeological studies, which it hasn’t, the 1925 document does unwittingly connect major Book of Mormon sites described in The North America Model for the Book of Mormon, such as the city of Lehi-Nephi in North Carolina, the waters of Mormon in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and three important trails through Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia which extend into the north that are called the “Great Indian Warpath”.  The one through Kentucky has been called the Path of the Armed Warriors by Emmett A. Conway of the Old Forrester website leading to and through the Scioto Trail to Chillicothe, Ohio, on the Scioto River, where the city of Zarahemla has attacked by a band of armed Lamanite warriors led by Coriantumr (re: Helaman 1:14-19).
  • The location of the Linville Gorge in the Blue Ridge Mountains near the city of Lehi-Nephi qualifies as the waters of Mormon and would also serve as a place of resort for the Nephites and a place of refuge for Alma from the priests of Noah near an ancient trail referred to as “The Old Cherokee Path to Virginia”.
  • The city of Lehi-Nephi at a distance of 235 miles in from the coast, the equivalent of a “space of many days”, is located in the Piedmont, which is a land full of gold, silver, copper and iron as described by Nephi and which is intersected by several trails, including one that intersects a trail where Limhi, Ammon and Gideon “bent their course towards the land of Zarahemla.” (Mosiah 22:11)
  • A stand along mountain group near the city of Lehi-Nephi that qualifies as Mount Antipas.

In the Land of Promise – Land of Zarahemla

  • The Hopewell Culture centered in Ohio extending from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and from Nebraska to Virginia, was discovered in the late 19th century and was dated by the National Park Service and the Ohio Historical Society in the 20th century as existing anywhere from 1000 B.C. to 500 A.D. (more specifically 200 B.C. to 400 A.D.) with no explanation as to why it disappeared. The Hopewell is described by the National Park Service as the most advanced culture without equal in the eastern United States before the colonists arrived.
  • While the 18th century colonists were aware of earthworks throughout the east constructed by Native Americans, since referred to as the Mound Builders, the earthworks were not scientifically studied nor documented thoroughly until the late 19th century and early 20th century.
  • Several major earthwork complexes have been documented in southern Ohio by the National Park Service, of which they have no idea why so many (two dozen) were constructed by the Hopewell. They describe the Seip Earthworks near Chillicothe, Ohio, as enclosing 120 acres, including a large circle of about 50 acres with a 30 foot high mound a little smaller than a football field in the center. The mound in the center was fully excavated in 1925 by the Ohio Historical Society, and the floors of two very large connected buildings with a small building between then and burn pits were exposed. The date of the Seip complex is from 200 B.C. to 400 A.D., and the timing of the mound in the center is from 100 B.C. to 400 A.D. The National Park Service can only conclude that they were not for living in but were for “large ritual gatherings”, and they do not know what happened to the people who constructed them so long ago.  Mosiah 2 with a date of 124 B.C., and Mosiah 25 later, describes events that fit exactly the results of the scientifically conducted studies of these earthworks. Mosiah 2 describes a gathering of the people in tents around a temple (the two large connected buildings) with a tower from which king Benjamin spoke to them (the small building between them) and how the people brought the firstlings of their flocks for sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the Law of Moses (Mosiah 2:3). Mosiah 25 describes how Alma later went and preached to the people who were assembled in large groups called “churches” throughout the area, of which seven were constructed by the time of Mosiah 25.  

ConclusionJoseph Smith could not have known any, or certainly not all, of these important geography and archaeology facts in 1830.   Without conclusive evidence that would identify an individual, or individuals, who actually wrote the Book of Mormon as a commercial enterprise for glory or profit who also had the life experiences, knowledge and the clairvoyance to see things yet to be discovered, the only conclusion as to who wrote the Book of Mormon has to rely on the explanation provided by Joseph Smith in the Joseph Smith – History, as included in the Pearl of Great Price. In other words, the author of the Book of Mormon is really Mormon who abridged the records of several ancient writers who recorded the history of the Jaredite, Nephite and Lamanite peoples over a period of centuries ultimately to be translated by the gift and power of God through the latter-day prophet, Joseph Smith.

 

11.   Question: What about all the stone cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon?  Where are these stone cities?

Answer:   The Book of Mormon does not mention “stone cities” at all, certainly not as one might think of cities in the Mideast.  Buildings within Book of Mormon “cities” were likely built with typical “Hopewell Culture” construction, most of which was less than permanent wood and wattle and daub (cement).  And the Book of Mormon does not mention “stone walls” as one might envision around Jerusalem or in one of the famous Arnold Friberg paintings such of Samuel the Lamanite upon the wall. According to the Book of Mormon, besides just earth embankment enclosures, or no embankments at all, there are two types of enhanced walls mentioned around different city, ceremonial and/or defensive sites.

  1. The only Book of Mormon reference to “walls of stone” is as follows: Alma 48:8 “Yea, he had been strengthening the armies of the Nephites, and erecting small forts, or places of resort; throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, and also building walls of stone to encircle them about, round about their cities and the borders of their lands; yea, all round about the land.” This does not describe massive hewn stone walls. This describes fortifications similar to the following:
    1. Hopewell (Mound Builder) Spruce Hill Earthworks in Ohio according to the National Park Service brochure is described as follows: “Built primarily of stone, a low perimeter walls (sic) encloses the 140-acre plateau of the mesa-like ridge top.”
    2. The following is from Wikipedia on the Redstone Old Fort in Pennsylvania. “Col. James Burd ordered construction of the fort in 1759 on an earthwork mound left behind by prehistoric Indians called the Mound Builders.  The American colonists called these mounds “old forts”, and this one had large red sandstone blocks that had been placed at the top suggesting the site had been a fortress of some kind.”
  2. The second type is likely how a few other walls were constructed. Alma 53:4 ”And he caused that they should build a breastwork of timbers upon the inner bank of the ditch; and they cast up dirt out of the ditch against the breastwork of timbers; and thus they did cause the Lamanites to labor until they had encircled the city of Bountiful round about with a strong wall of timbers and earth, to an exceeding height.”  An example of a strong wall of timbers and earth is documented at the Pollock Works Hopewell site in central Ohio: ”Robert Riordan, an archaeologist with Wright State University, has directed many seasons of excavations at the Pollock Works revealing a complicated site history. The works appear to have been constructed in five major stages beginning as early as AD 50. One of these stages involved the erection of a large, timber stockade along the top of the earthen embankments. Later, the stockade was burned down and the charred remnants were buried. Apparently, this enclosure was used both for ceremony and as a defensive fortification at different times.”  These were the kinds of walls that could be scaled, stood upon, climbed over with ropes and ladders, etc.  

The problem is that people have been conditioned unfortunately by the absolutely wonderful fine art work produced by Arnold Friberg in the 1950’s and which is on display in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City. They are what one would call “artist’s conceptions”  For some history regarding the genesis of these paintings, refer to the following link from Deseret News.  Since he was producing the paintings for the General Primary President who also personally funded the work, Arnold Friberg did not have much content oversight by the Church. 

https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865556112/Insight-into-Arnold-Fribergs-Book-of-Mormon- paintings.html   

After over 60 years, it is hard to not visualize Samuel the Lamanite standing on a 50’ high hewn stone wall with a bunch of Aztecs shooting arrows at him. That was just Friberg’s attempt to go heroic without attention to reality.

 

12. Question: Where is Mormon’s hill Cumorah? Is it in MesoAmerica or in New York?    10/13/17

Answer: While the philosophical rule of Occam’s Razor would suggest that it is in New York due to the 3000+ miles between MesoAmerica and New York where the plates ended up, there is ongoing debate over its location.   As many as 7-8 standalong hills in MesoAmerica have been identified as potential candidates but none have been determined as the final one by concensus.  However, many MesoAmerica researchers have agreed that the Book of Mormon narrative should provide important clues.  One researcher, David Palmer, in his book “In Search of Cumorah” pp 42 and 53, has provided a list of criteria that is generally accepted as determinative.  It has 13 bullet points along with related Book of Mormon scriptural references.  It can be found in the following website. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumorah

While most of the focus has been using the criteria to identify the hill Cumorah in MesoAmerica, the following commentary looks at the New York hill Cumorah in context with “The North America Model for the Book of Mormon” to see how it fits the itemized criteria summaraized by David Palmer.  

  • It was near an eastern seacoast.
    a.   Ether 9:3 - Verse 3 refers to “seashore” not “seacoast” and the direction of travel is “eastward” not to an “eastern seacoast”.  The “hill of Shim” is located in the “land Desolation” (Mormon 4:19 & 23) in southern Ontario.  Omer “passed by the hill of Shim” and then “came over” the Niagara River at the “narrow neck” that separates Desolation from Bountiful (Alma 22:32 see below), then by the place where the Nephites were destroyed near Cumorah.  The hill Cumorah in New York is about 90 miles east of the “narrow neck” and less than a day south of the waters of Ripliancum (Ether 15:8-11 see below). Omer then continued to travel eastward along the south seashore of the waters of Ripliancum (Lake Ontario) to a place where they pitched their tents by the Ripiancum seashore.   The hill of Shim in Desolation may have been a glacial drumlin type hill in Ontario similar to the hill Cumorah in New York. 
  • It was near a narrow neck of land.
    a.   Not all places referred to as a narrow neck, narrow pass, narrow passage or small neck refer to the same place. Related modifier phrases help to indicate the differences. Most refer to the neck of land that is located at the Niagara River between the east sea (Lake Ontario) and the west sea (Lake Erie).  Another one refers to the “narrow neck” of the Maryland Delaware Peninsula further south described as being located “where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10).  Lib and others traveled south along the Susquehanna River to the Chesapeake Bay, which is the largest sea estuary that “divides the land” in North America.  This defines the southern extents of the Jaredite culture in the northeast. 
    b.   Alma 22:29-32 - Verse 32 calls the Niagara neck a “small neck of land between the land northward (Desolation) and the land southward (Bountiful)”. The width of it is described as a “day and a half’s journey for a Nephite”.  It is in the north where the Nephites lived. 
    c.   Mormon 2:29 – The Niagara neck is also described as a “narrow passage” that separates the “land northward” (Desolation) from the “land southward”.
    d.   Mormon 3:5 Here the Niagara neck is described as being “the narrow pass which led to the land southward” from Desolation.
    e.   Alma 43 Alma 43 does not have anything to do with the narrow neck of land or Cumorah. This chapter discusses the Nephite and Lamanite battles between Moroni and Zarahemnah from Jerson in the east over to Manti along the river Sidon near the city of Zarahemla. 
    f.    Alma 56 - Alma 56 does not have anything to do with the narrow neck of land or Cumorah. It describes Helaman’s 2000 stripling soldiers coming from Jerson in the east to battle with the Lamanites in the land of Manti, the head of the river Sidon. 
    g.   Alma 50:33-34Here the 30 mile wide Niagara narrow neck is described as “the narrow pass which led by the sea into the land northward (Desolation), yea, by the sea, on the west (Lake Erie) and on the east (Lake Ontario).”
    h.   Alma 52:9Here the description of the Niagara neck is “the narrow pass which led into the land northward” separating Bountiful on the south from Desolation on the north.
    i.    Mormon 3:5-7 Mormon and the Nephites gathered in the “land Desolation” northward of the “narrow pass which led to the land southward” to defend against the Lamanites. “Northward” and “southward” imply the general direction of the overall land areas of Desolation to the north and Bountiful to the south, not in the direct cardinal directions of north and south.  Alma 63:5 below confirms that the “narrow neck” is described as leading to the land northward, i.e. Desolation.    
    j.    Alma 63:5 This reference brings the major Book of Mormon lands and features of the “land Bountiful” (the state of New York), the “land Desolation” (southern Ontario), and the “west sea” (Lake Erie) together at one location, all around and on either side of “the narrow neck which led to the land northward”. It is different from the “narrow neck” described as the “narrow neck of land where the sea divides the land”. That is where the Jaredite, Lib, built a “great city”. (Ether 10 see below) 
    k.   Ether 10:19-28-- Ether 10 explains that many generations after the arrival of the Jaredites, Lib and others traveled south from where they lived for the most part in the north near the “waters of Ripliancum” (Lake Ontario), They followed the Susquehannah River from New York through Pennsylvania to the head of the Chesapeake Bay, “the sea that divides the land”.  
          
  • It was on a coastal plain, and possibly near other mountains and valleys.
    a.    Ether 14:12-15 The hill Cumorah is located on the glacial plains south of Lake Ontario. All large bodies of water were referred to as “seas”.  The land of Moron (Ether 7:6) is located likely along the waters of Ripliancum next to the narrow neck which leads to the land northward (Desolation).  The Finger Lakes with “borders (mountains) upon the seashore”, such as on Lake Canandaigua, are 30 miles south of Ripliancum and 10 miles south of Cumorah.  

  • It was one day's journey south (east-south-east in modern coordinates) of a large body of water.
    a.    Ether 15:8-11Verse 8 mentions that the final Jaredite battle would start “on the morrow” which implies that it was likely less than a day from Ripliancum, a large body of water. The New York hill Cumorah, which is also the hill Ramah, is located less than 19 miles south of the seashore of Lake Ontario (Ripliancum).  The center of the campsite for the sizeable Jaredite army would have been less.    

  • It was in an area of many rivers and waters.
    a.    Mormon 6:4There is no place in the entire North America Continent that fits that description better than in and around the New York hill Cumorah with the Finger Lakes, the Great Lakes, the many rivers and water falls along the Niagara Escarpment that extends from New York through the “narrow neck”, including Niagara Falls, into and through southern Ontario (the land Desolation) which is surrounded by seas in all directions (Helaman 3:8), north, south, west and east, i.e., Georgian Bay, and Lakes Erie, Huron and Ontario.

  • It was in the presence of fountains.
    a.    Mormon 6:4 – Fountains appear to be referring to water falls. See above.

  • The abundance of water apparently provided a military advantage.
    a.    Mormon 6:4 The final Nephite/Lamanite battle narrative does not suggest water as being an advantage. However, the description of it being in a “land of many waters, rivers, and fountains”, does place it in the same location as the hill Ramah where Limhi’s men found the bones of the Jaredites and the 24 gold plates, the location of which is also described by Mosiah as being ”… in a land among many waters,…” (Mosiah 8:8).  Any military advantage would probably be from it being a hill that provided a view of the land for several miles around. 

  • There was an escape route to the land ("country") southward.
    a.    Mormon 8:2 South of the hill Cumorah and Lake Ontario are the glacial plains with many north/south oriented drumlins which extend south to the Finger Lakes, all of which are also oriented north and south, providing valleys and corridors that lead further southward.

  • The hill was large enough to provide a view of hundreds of thousands of bodies.
    a.    Mormon 6:11 - The hill Cumorah is 110 foot high surrounded by relatively flat plains interspersed with “drumlin” glacial hills throughout central and western New York. A 110 foot high observation point can see 12 miles to the horizon in all directions.  Even at a viewing distance with a radius of only 2 miles, one would be able to observe about 12 square miles or about 3,000 hectares, a sizeable battlefield.       

  • The hill was apparently a significant landmark.
    a.    Ether 9:3 – In the Jaredite’s days, where “…the whole face of the land northward (of the Chesapeake Bay) was covered with inhabitants” (Ether 10:21), and in Mormon’s day where the “land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous as the sand of the sea” (Mormon 1:7), it is likely that forests of timber were not as extensive as today since wood was the primary building material for cities and houses, and for warmth and cooking. As such, the area around the hill Ramah/Cumorah may have been more open like in photos of the hill Cumorah from the early 1900’s before the industrial age of electricity, coal, gas and oil technologies.  With fewer trees, the drumlins would have been visible from a distance. 
    b.   Mormon 6:6 Mormon hid the plates in the hill where the final battle was to take place. He gave Moroni a few plates to write upon so that he could deposit them in the same hill years later and from where Moroni delivered them to Joseph Smith in 1829.

  • The hill was apparently free standing so people could camp around it. 
    a.   Mormon 6:2,11 - Refer to comments above for Mormon 6:11.

  • The climate was apparently temperate with no record of cold or snow.  
    a.   Enos 1:20The book of Enos was written while the Nephites were still in the land of Nephi in the south around 420 B.C. before Mosiah was warned to travel north around 225. B.C. where he discovered the Mulekites in the land of Zarahemla. The Lamanites remained in the south from where they attacked the Nephites in the north from time to time, likely in seasonal battles. In addition, the description of the dress of the Lamanites was not much different from Native American Tribes that inhabited the eastern United States in precolonial times.    
    b.   lma 46:40 Actually Alma 46:40 confirms that there were serious illnesess, including death, related to an environment subject to four  climate seasons.

  • The hill was located in a volcanic zone susceptible to earthquakes.
    a.    3 Nephi 8:6-23 3 Nephi 8 does not refer to volcanes. It refers to earthquakes and tornadoes. This is consistent with the New Madrid Seismic zone in Missouri, the most powerful earthquake zone in North America, and extreme weather typical of the eastern United States. 

Conclusion: The New York hill Cumorah meets all of the criteria summarized by David Palmer; and it is, therefore, the hill Cumorah/Ramah of the Book of Mormon since it meets one additional and final critria as being from where the plates were delivered by Moroni to Joseph Smith Jr. in 1829.