Wednesday, January 16, 2019

124 Prophecies Fulfilled

Book of Mormon Central published KnoWhy #498 today and it is phenomenal. Entitled "How Does Prophecy Shape the Book of Mormon's Content and Structure?" this outstanding essay written by Ryan Dahle of Salmon, ID details 124 prophecies in the text whose fulfillment is explicitly recorded elsewhere in the Nephite record.

For instance, 1 Nephi 1:4 records a prophecy that Jerusalem will be destroyed and this prophecy gets repeated five additional times in the text. The first report of fulfillment came soon after the prophecy itself. Once his family was in the New World, Lehi announced that he had seen the destruction of Jerusalem in vision 2 Nephi 1:4 but not all of the patriarch's posterity were inclined to believe him 2 Nephi 4:13.

Nephi, through prophetic vision, also came to understand that Jerusalem had been destroyed and many of the Jews had been taken captive into Babylon 2 Nephi 25:10. He knew, though, that not all of his family believed him 2 Nephi 32:7.

Undeniable proof that Jerusalem had been destroyed came when Mosiah I came down to Zarahemla from the city of Nephi and discovered the Mulekites ca. 200 BC Omni 1:15. Nephi II made this proof explicit when he called the people of Zarahemla to repentance from his garden tower Helaman 8:21.

As he compiled his book, Mormon made it abundantly clear that prophecies get fulfilled. We can trust inspired prophets. God keeps His promises. It is clear to most readers that the Book of Mormon places high value on prophetic content. When we discussed a potential KnoWhy on internal prophecies, I thought we might find 25 or 30 instances of prophecies fulfilled later in the text. Ryan found 124 examples and there are undoubtedly more. We have been reading it carefully for years and the Book of Mormon continues to surprise, excite, and impress us.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World

In a talk given at BYU in 1955, Elder Hugh B. Brown (1883 - 1975, his middle name was also Brown), then an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve, laid the foundation for what would later be called
Elder, then Pres. Hugh B. Brown in His Later Years
"The Challenge the Book of Mormon Makes to the World." This is a list of 30 or more characteristics (multiple versions exist as people have tweaked and shared it over the years) a work must have to be like the Book of Mormon. The challenge is for you or anyone to write a comparable book:
  • You will be in your early 20's with limited formal education.
  • You can do no research of any kind.
  • You must dictate 269,000 words to a scribe in about 65 working days.
  • Your cannot go back and edit your first draft.
  • You must get hundreds of historical and cultural details right that science will confirm over time.
  • Your book will remain in print continuously and be translated into more than 100 languages.
  • Over 1 million people will donate years of their lives to publicize your book worldwide.
  • and 23 other stringent requirements... The full list is here.
This long list of 30+ features is impressive because the Book of Mormon is beautiful, miraculous, and true. Historical forgery is impossible. The Book of Mormon continues to resonate with many people on multiple levels. The primary institution resulting from the Book of Mormon odyssey, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is world-class in dozens of ways.

Hugh Nibley (1910 - 2005) issued a version of this challenge to his BYU students year after year.
Hugh W. Nibley Who Taught at BYU from 1946 until 1994
"Write a history of ancient Tibet. Why Tibet? Because you likely know as much or more about ancient Tibet than Joseph Smith or anyone else in 1829 knew about ancient America." No one ever took Nibley up on his challenge. Of course no mere author could produce an equivalent book. The Book of Mormon is the most divine object most of us will ever hold in our mortal hands.

In 1966, Grace Guymon Jones first read a copy of "The Challenge" and decided she would do something with it someday. In 1990, her professor husband, Milt, was on Sabbatical in New Zealand. Her children were adults and she had time on her hands. She began collecting source materials and writing.
Grace Guymon Jones Received a BYU Emeritus Award in 2001
27 years later, when she was 88, she had a manuscript in circulation that was nearing publication quality. I worked with her for a few months, heavily editing and ghost-writing some sections. Her son, Milt Jr., did the same. By early 2018 she was sourcing images and working with a layout artist. In December, 2018, her website went live and her book was selling on Amazon. Grace was 90 years old.
Important New Book
This 340 page book has an introduction by Milt Jones, Jr. and 30 chapters, one for each of the 30 requirements on Grace's list. Her writing style is more folksy than scholarly, although her sources are well-documented with 926 end notes. Her text is enlivened with dozens of photos and illustrations from very good artists. In these pages you will find a faithful retelling of the Joseph Smith story, some of the best current Book of Mormon scholarship, an insightful look at many aspects of the contemporary Church, and above all lots of stories. Sister Jones has been collecting stories for decades from the Church News, Ensign, published books, and her own contacts in the places she and her husband have lived around the world. The result is a compilation of Book of Mormon human interest stories at their finest. I highly recommend this book.

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world. Book of Mormon Central currently publishes in English and Spanish.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Why Only Male Authors in the Book of Mormon?

Many gifted writers are female as J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series demonstrates.
J. K. Rowling's Ubiquitous Boy Wizard
In Joseph Smith's America (1805 - 1844), women were recognized authors. The first book published in the English colonies was a collection of poems by Anne Bradstreet (1612 - 1672) entitled The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America that appeared in 1650. English America's first best-seller was Charlotte Temple first published in 1790.
1814 New York Edition of Charlotte Temple
It was written by Susanna Rowson (1762 - 1824) who came to Massachusetts from England at the age of 5. Charlotte Temple remained the most successful book in English American literature until Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 - 1896) published Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1852. Briton Jane Austen (1775 - 1817), largely unheralded in her lifetime, achieved enormous posthumous fame as the author of the very popular Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Joseph Smith's Bible contained the books of Ruth and Esther. We don't know for sure who wrote either book, but their presence in the Old Testament tells us something about the role of women in ancient storytelling.

So, why, when we read the Book of Mormon, do we find all its authors are men?
  • Nephi
  • Lehi
  • Isaiah
  • Jacob
  • Enos
  • Jarom
  • Omni
  • Amaron
  • Chemish
  • Abinadom
  • Amaleki
  • Mormon
  • King Benjamin
  • King Limhi
  • Zeniff
  • Alma
  • Captain Moroni
  • Helaman
  • Giddianhi
  • Parhoron (Critical Text orthography)
  • Ether
  • Moroni
The foregoing list is not exhaustive, but it is exclusively male. Women such as Sariah 1 Nephi 5:2 and King Lamoni's wife Alma 19:29 are quoted briefly very occasionally, but female authorship is not attested in the text. If the Book of Mormon was written in Mesoamerica as most Latter-day Saint and Community of Christ (Restoration Branch) scholars believe, the reason is straightforward.

One of the best sources for late-breaking news from the exciting world of Maya Decipherment is a blog named simply "Maya Decipherment" authored by David Stuart, Stephen Houston, Simon Martin, Marc Zender, and other luminaries. In a June 28, 2018 post entitled "What Writing Looks Like," Stephen Houston, formerly at BYU, currently at Brown, discusses glyphs on textiles. Even though weaving in the Maya world was typically done by women, "Yet there is also overwhelming evidence that the scribes and literate sculptors were men." For authority, Houston cites his article "Crafting Credit: Authorship among Classic Maya Painters and Sculptors" in Cathy L. Costin, editor, Making Value, Making Meaning: Techné in the Pre-Columbian World (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 2016) pp. 391-431.
The Hero Twins as Scribes, Drawn from Justin Kerr Number K344
In the Mesoamerican world the Book of Mormon likely came from, only men were authors.

A related topic is discussed in Book of Mormon Central's KnoWhy #391 published December 19, 2017 in English "Why Are So Few Women  Mentioned in the Book of  Mormon?" This KnoWhy was published July 10, 2018 in Spanish.

Kirk Magleby volunteers as Executive Director of Book of Mormon Central which builds enduring faith in Jesus Christ by making the Book of Mormon accessible, comprehensible, and defensible to the entire world.

Friday, January 4, 2019


A beautiful blog post by Jasmin Gimenez captures the essence of veil symbolism in the Temple and on a bride's wedding day. Recently married herself, Jasmin draws on scholarship by Lynne Wilson and deep insights from scriptures such as Ether 3 to help us understand the Temple more clearly from a woman's perspective. Highly recommended.
Lace Cathedral Length Veil from the UK
My brother, Alfred Magleby, spent many years as a diplomat in Islamic countries where his wife, Hiromi, wore a face veil in public. I asked her once if she did not feel belittled or demeaned by what I regarded as a suppression of her natural right to self expression. On the contrary, she replied, she felt liberated and empowered wearing her veil and most of the Muslim women she talked with felt similarly. Being inside rather than outside the veil is a powerful symbol of proximity to God.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Names Evidence Antiquity

Book of Mormon Central just published the sixth video in its stellar Evidences series. This new production analyzes Book of Mormon names with interesting origins in ancient Semitic and/or Egyptian languages.

The blog article entitled "Watch: Five Evidences for Book of Mormon Names" has a long list of references documenting the copious scholarship behind this video.

The five other superb videos in the Book of Mormon Central Evidences series are all available on the BMC Studios YouTube Channel. Elder Larry Y. Wilson of the Seventy saw the Complexity video and thought it was so good it should be featured on the homepage so every Church member could see it. These are the highest quality Book of Mormon evidence videos ever produced. They deserve a wide audience. The first one was published in June, 2017 and in the intervening year and a half they have garnered over 500,000 views in English and Spanish. Videos with this much animation are costly to produce. Dozens more videos in this series are possible if funding materializes.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Mulekite Zarahemla

2 Nephi 1:9 mentions other people the Lord would bring out of the land of Jerusalem (the Mulekites). When he uttered this prophecy, Father Lehi was already in the Americas. The next to leave the Near East would be Mulek and his party. This passage contains details that can help us locate the Mulekites in time and space.
  • they would be kept from all other nations
  • they would possess their land unto themselves
  • their righteousness would bring blessings
  • none would molest them to take away the land of their inheritance
This isolation narrative agrees with Alma 22:31 which says after making landfall in the land northward, the Mulekites settled a wilderness in the land southward. Omni 1:16 adds that the Mulekites, once settled, stayed put until the Nephites under Mosiah I discovered them ca. 200 BC. The term "discovered" implies the two groups had no prior knowledge of each other.

The Mulekite capital, the city of Zarahemla, will be found in an area that was relatively isolated during the nearly 400 year period from ca. 580 BC to ca. 200 BC.

Serious proposals for the city of Zarahemla in Mesoamerica include:
  • Yaxchilan, Chiapas (RLDS candidate since Louis Edward Hills, 1917)
  • Santa Rosa, Chiapas (John L. Sorenson followed by Joseph & Blake Allen)
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, Alta Verapaz (F. Richard Hauck followed by Joe V. Andersen, Stanford S. Smith, and Lenard C. Brunsdale)
  • Santa Cruz, Chiapas (Gareth W. Lowe)
  • Ceibal, Peten (Robert Roylance & Richard Terry)
  • Nueva Esperanza, Chiapas (V. Garth Norman followed by Kirk Magleby & Javier Tovar) 
See the map in the article "Toward Consensus on Nephi and Zarahemla."

We can test the various Zarahemla candidates against this isolation narrative. We know from the work of Barbara Arroyo, Lucia Henderson, Takeshi Inomata, and others that all 3 candidates for the city of Nephi were within early Kaminaljuyu (KJ)'s sphere of influence. We also know that 4 of the 6 candidates for the city of Zarahemla were within this same sphere of influence that reached along the Grijalva to Chiapa de Corzo, along the Usumacinta to Chama, and along the Pasion to Cancuen and Ceibal.
Attested Diplomatic and Trade Relations with Early KJ
ca. 600 - 200 BC
Only Zarahemla candidates Nueva Esperanza and Yaxchilan pass this KJ influence test.

We can plot known Olmec and Olmec-influenced sites.
Zarahemla Candidates with Known Olmec & Olmec-Influenced Sites
Since the Olmec (ca. 1,200 - 400 BC) generally preceded the Mulekites, areas with large numbers of Olmec or Olmec-influenced sites are incompatible with the isolation narrative we are testing. Only Zarahemla candidates Nueva Esperanza, Yaxchilan, and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros pass this Olmec influence test. Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Ceibal were all Olmec or Olmec-influenced sites themselves, and in close proximity to other Olmec sites.

Bruce R. Bachand with BYU's NWAF has extensively studied Chiapa de Corzo. He documents a Zoque sphere of influence centered on Chiapa de Corzo that extended southeastward to La Lagunita and eastward to the Usumacinta ca. 1,000 to 400 BC.
Zoque Sites and Sphere of Influence ca. 1,000 - 400 BC
Sites within the area shaded blue in the map above are incompatible with the isolation narrative we are testing. Only Zarahemla candidates Nueva Esperanza and Ceibal pass this Zoque influence test.

The results of these 3 isolation narrative tests:
  • Nueva Esperanza passes all 3 tests.
  • Yaxchilan passes 2 tests.
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros passes 1 test.
  • Ceibal passes 1 text.
  • Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa fail all 3 tests.
The article "Obsidian Trade Patterns" documents a fourth test that produced similar results, validating Nueva Esperanza while ruling out Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros.

Among the Mesoamerican proposals we have considered for the city of Zarahemla, Nueva Esperanza best fits the isolation narrative described in 2 Nephi 1:9.

This is the first slide of John E. Clark's powerful presentation at the Library of Congress Worlds of Joseph Smith Conference in 2005. The conference commemorated the bicentennial of the prophet's birth in 1805.
John Clark's Joseph Smith Bicentennial Presentation Title Slide 
The site pictured is Nueva Esperanza, Chiapas, just west of the Usumacinta in Palenque municipality. John Clark told Garth Norman about the site which motivated Garth and me to visit it in 2006. It has about 200 mounds similar to the ones shown above. Garth did a little surface scavenging and found preclassic pottery shards. We saw no evidence of excavation or looting except for a couple of backhoe gashes in larger mounds. Robert L. Rands (1922 - 2010) wo(rked at this site and the backhoe trenches were probably dug under his direction. He was the recognized expert on the preclassic built environment around Palenque. Rands spent time with George (1935 - 2014) and David Stuart at the former's Boundary End Archaeology Research Center in North Carolina prior to the publication of the Stuart's Palenque: Eternal City of the Maya in 2008.

Rands published an article entitled "Palenque and Selected Survey Sites in Chiapas and Tabasco: The Preclassic" in Damien B. Marken, editor, Palenque: Recent Investigations at the Classic Maya Center (Lanham, MD: Altamira Press Division of Rowman & Littlefield, 2007). In his article, Rands discusses Nueva Esperanza, aka Zapatillo. Based on his study of ceramics, he says the site had limited external relationships in the Early Preclassic prior to 950 BC. It's relationships were mainly with the Olmec and Zoque areas to the west during the Middle Preclassic (950 - 400 BC). Relationships with the Maya Lowlands to the east strengthened in the Late Preclassic (400 BC - AD 250). Rands finds stylistic links with ceramics from such far-flung places as Tres Zapotes (390 air kilometers to the NW), Oaxaca (535 air kilometers to the SW), and Ceibal (230 air kilometers to the SE). 

Based on Rands' results at Nueva Esperanza and nearby sites, the Stuarts reported in their 2008 joint masterwork that Nueva Esperanza was the archetype of a unique early cultural tradition that was neither Olmec nor Maya. Palenque did not evolve from Nueva Esperanza 40 air kilometers up the road toward the Usumacinta. (Nueva Esperanza was the riverside port on the shortest route between Palenque and the sea.) Palenque evolved from the early Maya culture in the Mirador Basin 225 air kilometers to the east. The Nueva Esperanza development, coterminous with El Mirador and Nakbe, was less ornate than the great early Maya centers, and it died out without ever becoming classic Maya as did Palenque. See the article "Palenque." Cultural anomaly Nueva Esperanza is an A-list candidate for the Mulekite and later Nephite capital city, Zarahemla.

Another test we can use to determine best fit to the text is the distance narrative described in the articles Plotting Alma, The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation, and Test #6 Relative Distances. For a variety of reasons, we believe 15 air kilometers is a reasonable approximation for the value of the standard Nephite distance measure "one day's journey." See the article "Land Southward Travel Times." The text is so explicit on the distance between Nephi and Zarahemla (Mosiah 23:3, Mosiah 24:20, Mosiah 24:25 total 21 days) one senses Mormon is leaving bread crumb clues in his record so we moderns can locate these landmark locations 1,600 years later. This is how the various Nephi to Zarahemla candidates measure up in ascending distance order:
  • Tzalcam to Salinas de los Nueve Cerros 105 air kilometers or 5 km/day
  • Tzalcam to Ceibal 162 air kilometers or 7.7 km/day
  • San Juan to Yaxchilan 201 air kilometers or 9.6
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Rosa 258 air kilometers or 12.3 km/day
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Cruz 318 air kilometers or 15.1 km/day
  • Kaminaljuyu to Nueva Esperanza 376 air kilometers or 17.9
But, closely reading the text, it is clear the 21 day distance is not from city to city, but rather from the wilderness outside Nephi/Shilom to the wilderness border of the lesser land of Zarahemla. This reduces the linear distance Alma and his people traveled to a value closer to these numbers:
  • Tzalcam to Salinas de los Nueve Cerros 83 air kilometers or 4 km/day
  • Tzalcam to Ceibal 120 air kilometers or 5.7 km/day
  • San Juan to Yaxchilan 188 air kilometers or 9 km/day
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Rosa 220 air kilometers or 10.5
  • Kaminaljuyu to Santa Cruz 305 air kilometers or 14.5
  • Kaminaljuyu to Nueva Esperanza 322 air kilometers or 15.3
Salinas de los Nueve Cerros and Ceibal fail the distance test. People simply traveled  further than 4 - 6 air kilometers per day in southern Mesoamerica. Historically attested travel contradicts such short distances. Yaxchilan and Santa Rosa are marginal. 9 - 11 air kilometers per day is shorter than we would expect after examining known pre-industrial travel patterns in the area. Santa Cruz and Nueva Esperanza are right in the sweet spot. These two pass the distance test and are the Zarahemla candidates that best fit the text based on the day's journey criterion.
Teal Lines are Longer City to City Transects
White Lines are Wilderness Border to Wilderness Border
The Limhi Explorer Narrative offers three additional ways for us to test the various Zarahemla candidates. See the articles Ramah/Cumorah and Test #8 Limhi Expedition for context. Basically, the 43 men dispatched by King Limhi thought they knew where Zarahemla was and how to get there. Overshooting Zarahemla, they found remains of the once-mighty Jaredite nation in the general vicinity of Hill Ramah/Cumorah. Returning to King Limhi in the city of Nephi, they reported that they had found Zarahemla and the King believed them until Ammon and his party from the real Zarahemla showed up. Limhi, himself a record-keeper, had access to his grandfather, Zeniff's records, so he had some knowledge of these matters.

We map four proposed Ramah/Cumorah hills associated with the six Zarahemla correlations we are testing.
Black Lines from Candidate Cities of Nephi to Hills Ramah/Cumorah
The first Limhi Explorer Narrative test determines how close to its Zarahemla a proposed Nephi to Ramah/Cumorah transect passes. If the 43 men could have passed right by the Zarahemla they were searching for on their way to the final Jaredite battleground, that scenario is not as believable as if they probably passed dozens or hundreds of kilometers distant from the Zarahemla they sought. The black lines in the map above are straight line transects from a candidate Nephi to its corresponding Ramah/Cumorah. When we measure the distance from each straight line transect to its corresponding Zarahemla, the data shows in ascending order:
  • Santa Rosa - transect passes 9 air kilometers away
  • Santa Cruz - transect passes 10 air kilometers away
  • Ceibal - transect passes 45 air kilometers away
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros - transect passes 62 air kilometers away
  • Yaxchilan - transect passes 122 air kilometers away
  • Nueva Esperanza - transect passes 165 air kilometers away
Yaxchilan and Nueva Esperanza pass this transect proximity test. If the Limhi explorers traveled more than 100 air kilometers distant from their intended target, Zarahemla, they were unlikely to find it and the textual scenario fits. Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz fail this test. Traveling within 10 air kilometers of their intended target, the explorers should have found Zarahemla. Ceibal and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros neither pass nor fail this test. Traveling within 45 to 62 air kilometers from their intended target, the explorers could have found Zarahemla, but contrary scenarios are more likely with increased distance.

The second Limhi Explorer Narrative test measures how far they actually traveled versus how far they should have traveled. The greater the proportional distance, the less likely the scenario becomes. Suppose someone sets out from Salt Lake City, Utah expecting to travel to Moab, Utah which is an air distance of 315 kilometers. When they get to Flagstaff, Arizona, which is an air distance of 619 kilometers, they will have traveled 1.97 times their intended distance. They are highly likely to realize by that point that they overshot Moab and went too far. Here are the Mesoamerican Zarahemla candidates ranked by proportional distance from Nephi to Zarahemla versus Nephi to Ramah/Cumorah:
  • Nueva Esperanza - should have traveled 376 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, actually traveled 604 air kilometers to Cerro San Martin Pajapan - overshot target by a factor of 1.61
  • Santa Cruz - should have traveled 318 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, actually traveled 664 air kilometers to Cerro Vigia - overshot target by a factor of 2.09
  • Ceibal - should have traveled 162 air kilometers from Tzalcam, actually traveled 354 air kilometers to Achotal - overshot target by a factor of 2.19
  • Santa Rosa - should have traveled 258 air kilometers from Kaminaljuyu, actually traveled 664 air kilometers to Cerro Vigia - overshot target by a factor of 2.57
  • Yaxchilan - should have traveled 201 air kilometers from San Juan, actually traveled 755 air kilometers to Cerro Rabon - overshot target by a factor of 3.76
  • Salinas de los Nueve Cerros - should have traveled 105 air kilometers from Tzalcam, actually traveled 655 air kilometers to Cerro Vigia - overshot target by a factor of 6.24
Nueva Esperanza passes this expected distance test. Yaxchilan and Salinas de los Nueve Cerros fail spectacularly. Santa Cruz, Ceibal, and Santa Rosa neither pass nor fail this test.

The third Limhi Explorer Narrative test discriminates between land forms. The 43 men traveled from the highlands, through the coastal plain, back into the highlands, and announced they had found Zarahemla. This implies Zarahemla was in the coastal plain. Nueva Esperanza passes this test. It is the only one of the six Zarahemla candidates in the coastal plain. Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, Ceibal, and Yaxchilan neither pass nor fail this test. They are in the lowlands, but not in the coastal plain. Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz are in the highlands, so they fail this test.

Another test we can apply to the various Zarahemla candidates derives from the incommunicado narrative. The Nephites in Nephi and the Mulekites in Zarahemla were unaware of each other's existence for nearly 400 years. This scenario is plausible if a great distance separates the two, or if the area between them is sparsely populated. This is a map of Mesoamerican Nephi/Zarahemla candidates overlaid with ancient American archaeological sites known to science.
Nephi - Zarahemla Combinations in Context with Archaeological Sites
Several patterns emerge from this data. Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa fail the Nephi to Zarahemla incommunicado test. There were simply too many ancient settlements in between them - so many that the teal lines we have drawn on the map are almost blotted out. Tzalcam and Ceibal neither pass nor fail the test. They both have a paucity of intervening sites, but their distances are so modest the 400 years without contact scenario seems unlikely. Yaxchilan and Nueva Esperanza pass the test nicely. Significant distances separate them from their corresponding Nephis, and there are multiple areas between each pair of sites with relatively low ancient settlement densities such that the teal lines show through more or less intact.

In summary, we have documented 9 tests that determine how well a particular Zarahemla candidate fits the text.
  1. Isolation Narrative KJ Influence
  2. Isolation Narrative Olmec Influence
  3. Isolation Narrative Zoque Influence
  4. Isolation Narrative Obsidian Trade Patterns
  5. Nephi to Zarahemla Distance Narrative
  6. Limhi Explorer Transect Proximity
  7. Limhi Explorer Expected Distance 
  8. Limhi Explorer Land Forms
  9. Nephi to Zarahemla Incommunicado Narrative
Nueva Esperanza passes 9/9 tests.
Yaxchilan passes 4/9 tests.
Ceibal passes 1/9 tests
Salinas de los Nueve Cerros passes 1/9 tests
Santa Cruz passes 1/9 tests
Santa Rosa passes 0/9 tests

Toward Consensus on Nephi and Zarahemla

Book of Mormon geographical correlations are being proposed throughout the Americas. Serious Book of Mormon geographical correlations are being proposed from the Andes on the south (George Potter, Bret Eborn) to Baja  California on the north (Lynn & David Rosenvall). Several serious Book of Mormon geographical correlations are being proposed in Mesoamerica. Looking at the Mesoamerican theories, I find it impressive how tightly clustered the various proposals for the city of Nephi and the city of Zarahemla are within the vast landscape of Mesoamerica (about 830,000 square kilometers or about the size of Texas and Louisiana combined).
Proposed Nephis and Zarahemlas
Six correlations are represented on the map above.
  1. Aric Turner in the RLDS (Community of Christ and Restoration Branch) tradition put Nephi at San Juan, Baja Verapaz and Zarahemla at Yaxchilan, Chiapas.
  2. Gareth W. Lowe put Nephi at Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala and Zarahemla at Santa Cruz, Chiapas.
  3. John L. Sorenson followed by Joseph & Blake Allen put Nephi at Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala and Zarahemla at Santa Rosa, Chiapas.
  4. Robert Roylance & Richard Terry put Nephi at Tzalcam, Baja Verapaz and Zarahemla at Ceibal, Peten.
  5. F. Richard Hauck followed by Joe V. Andersen, Stanford S. Smith, and Lenard C. Brunsdale put Nephi at Tzalcam, Baja Verapaz and Zarahemla at Salinas de los Nueve Cerros, Alta Verapaz.
  6. V. Garth Norman followed by Kirk Magleby & Javier Tovar put Nephi at Kaminaljuyu, Guatemala and Zarahemla at Nueva Esperanza, Chiapas.
The distance from the northernmost Nephi candidate (San Juan) to the southernmost candidate (Kaminaljuyu) is 84 air kilometers (about Salt Lake City to Brigham City). The furthest distance between any of the six Zarahemla candidates (Santa Cruz to Ceibal) is 288 air kilometers (about  Salt Lake City, UT to Twin Falls, ID). The shaded area around the proposed Nephis is 2,300 square kilometers (a little over half the size of Rhode Island). The shaded area around the proposed Zarahemlas is 40,000 square kilometers (just under half the size of South Carolina).

A priority is to identify the river Sidon (Grijalva, Usumacinta, or Pasion tributary of the Usumacinta) which would shrink the potential Zarahemla landscape significantly. I (Kirk Magleby) became convinced the Usumacinta is the Sidon after working on the problem during the second half of 2011. See the article The Usumacinta/Sidon Correlation. Discoveries since that time have significantly strengthened the Usumacinta/Sidon correlation. See for example "Obsidian Trade Patterns," "75 BC," and "Ground-Truthed LiDar."

Eventually, truth will prevail. In the meantime, it is satisfying to know movement toward consensus is possible because many of the Mesoamerican correlations are relatively close to each other for the key sites Nephi and Zarahemla.