Monday, October 9, 2023


 Geologists who analyze the destruction described in 3 Nephi 8 generally conclude that it was caused by a combination of seismic and volcanic activity. See for example Bart J. Kowallis, "In the Thirty and Fourth Year: A Geologist's View of the Great Destruction in 3 Nephi" in BYU Studies 37:3 (1997-98) and Jerry D. Grover, Jr. Geology of the Book of Mormon Provo: Grover Publishing (2015). This explanation of the cataclysms described in the text works well with a Mesoamerican setting for the Book of Mormon since southern Mexico and Central America have dozens of volcanoes, many of them active in Nephite times.

Some of the Many Volcanoes in Mesoamerica
These verses in the Bible seem to be referring to volcanoes:

  • Exodus 19:18 "and the smoke thereof (Mt. Sinai) ascended as the smoke of a furnace..."
  • Deuteronomy 4:11 "the mountain burned with fire...with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness."
  • Deuteronomy 5:23 "the mountain did burn with fire."
  • Psalms 97:5 "the hills melted like wax."
  • Psalms 104:32 "he toucheth the hills and they smoke."
  • Micah 1:4 "and the mountains shall be molten under the waters that are poured down a steep place."
  • Revelation 8:8 "a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea."
And these verses in the Book of Mormon likewise seem to be referring to volcanoes:

  • 1 Nephi 19:11 "mountains which shall be carried up."
  • 2 Nephi 26:5 "mountains shall cover them."
  • Helaman 14:23 "many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great."
  • 3 Nephi 8:10 "the earth was carried up upon the city of Moronihah, and in the place of the city there became a great mountain."
The term "volcano" does not appear in the Book of Mormon, but it is highly likely that volcanoes were present in the Nephite and Lamanite area.

Paricutin Volcano in Michoacan, Mexico
Paricutin achieved global fame in 1943 when it erupted in what had been a corn field and quickly formed a cinder cone. The volcanic explosion spread ash over an area of 200 square kilometers.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Heap Mounds and Tower Pyramids

People ask "If the Book of Mormon happened in Mesoamerica, why does the text not contain the word 'pyramid' since stepped pyramids were ubiquitous anciently in the region?" Actually, the text does describe stepped pyramids. It calls them 'towers.' The term 'tower' appears 30 times in the Book of Mormon. How do we know that a tower in Nephite and Jaredite parlance was a stepped pyramid? Because 9 of the 30 instances of 'tower' in the text refer to the famous Tower of Babel (Genesis 11:3-5) which almost everyone recognizes was based on a Mesopotamian ziggurat or stepped pyramid.

Great Ziggurat of Ur, Southern Iraq
Stepped pyramids were built in many places around the world. Some of the more famous that can be visited today include:

  • Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico
  • Candi Sukuh, Mount Lawu, Indonesia
  • Caracol, Belize
  • Chogha Zanbil, Iran
  • Djosser, Saqqara, Egypt
  • El Castillo, Yucatan, Mexico
  • Great Ziggurat of Ur, Iraq
  • Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico
  • Tikal, Guatemala

Tikal Temple 1, Guatemala
Since the Bible and the Book of Mormon both call a Mesopotamian stepped pyramid a "tower" as in Mosiah 28:17 we can be quite certain that Nephites and Lamanites would have called the very similar Mesoamerican stepped pyramids "towers" as in Alma 48:1. In this verse, Lamanite towers were clearly dominant urban structures.
Does the term 'mound' appear in the Book of Mormon? No. But the word 'heap' does 6 times in contexts that precisely match what we know of mortuary tumuli worldwide. See for example, Alma 28:11 and Ether 11:6. See the blog article "Mounds" for additional information on the global distribution of the simple structures the Book of Mormon text calls "heaps."
We would expect to find Book of Mormon lands in a region such as Mesoamerica that has both towers and heaps.
El Pital, Veracruz, Mexico
Coastal El Pital is one of many sites in Mesoamerica that combine stepped stone pyramids with earthen burial mounds. 
Tamtoc, San Luis Potosi, Mexico
Huastec Tamtoc is another.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Stairs or Ramp

Exodus 20:25 says Israelite altars made of stone should use natural, uncut stones so as not to defile the natural building material with iron tools. Deuteronomy 27:5-6 and Joshua 8:31 reinforce this idea of using unworked stones in altar construction to avoid polluting them with iron.

Exodus 20:26 goes on to say that steps should not be used to access a high altar to avoid a priest inadvertently exposing his private parts to those below. During the exodus from Egypt, priests wore flowing robes with no undergarments so immodest public displays were possible.

Zealous but poorly informed students of the Book of Mormon sometimes use these verses to claim that the Nephites (Jarom 1:5) and Lamanites (Helaman 13:1), both following the law of Moses, would never have built buildings with hewn stones and steps. Voila! their argument goes, Mesoamerica could not be the place where the Book of Mormon happened because it is full of worked stone architecture and elaborate staircases.


The truth is that soon after the instructions in Exodus 20 were given, God revealed Exodus 28:42 which instituted a new dress code for priests that included modest linen undergarments. This eliminated the problem with steps as Torah commentaries have noted for millenia. By the time Solomon's Temple was constructed, both hewn stones and stairs were used in the architecture. 1 Kings 6:7 specifies the use of stones shaped at the quarry or a remote workshop, while 1 Kings 6:8 specifies stairs. An image of Solomon's Temple on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem depicts both worked stones and steps.

Solomon's Temple per the Israel Museum
An image informed by good biblical and historical/archaeological scholarship shows the high altar from Solomon's Temple with both worked stones and stairs.
Image of Solomon's Temple Altar per 1 Kings

Nehemiah 9:4 talks about the stairs of the Levites. Ezekiel 40:42 describes a temple with a hewn stone altar. Ezekiel 40:49 mentions steps. Ezekiel 41:7 in many versions (such as the NIV) mentions a winding stairway. Ezekiel 43:17 explicitly mentions stairs.

The Scripture Central YouTube channel, Messages of Christ, has a beautiful 3D model of Solomon's Temple that shows the best current thinking about its architecture. Solomon's Temple had at least 3 sets of stone stairs.

Self-credentialed "experts" on the law of Moses who denigrate Mesoamerican architecture are simply naive.

For another take on this subject from bright young Hebrew scholar, Spencer Kraus, see his blog article "A Note on Temples, Stairs, and Mesoamerica."

For information on similarities between Mesoamerican and ancient Hebrew temple architecture, see the Scripture Central Evidence Summary #257 entitled Mesoamerican Temples.

Free Nations

The Book of Mormon prophesies that as part of the gathering of Israel in the latter days the Gentiles who have scattered the remnant of the seed of Jacob will be established in the Americas as a free people (3 Nephi 21:2-4). In Ether we read the words of a covenant the Lord makes with nations who will inhabit the Americas: "whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage and from captivity and from all other nations under heaven if they will but serve the God of the land, which is Jesus Christ." (Ether 2:12). These passages say we should find free people and free nations in the Americas, and we do.

The generally accepted source for data on global freedom is Freedom House. Their annual rankings of countries by the degree of freedom their citizens enjoy is a respected source because it takes into account:

  • political rights
  • civil liberties
  • voting
  • individual expression
  • equality before the law
Freedom House analyzes the effect of both state and non-state actors in a country and ranks nations with a freedom index number ranging from 1 (South Sudan, Syria, Tibet) where citizens enjoy almost no freedom to 100 (Finland, Norway, Sweden) where citizens are extraordinarily free. It turns out the Americas, Western Europe, East Asia, and former British colonies are the regions on earth with the most freedom.

Freedom House Map Green = Free, Purple = Not Free
Here are the Freedom House rankings of free countries in the New World:

  1. Canada (98)
  2. Uruguay (96)
  3. Barbados (94)
  4. Chile (94)
  5. Dominica (93)
  6. St. Lucia (92)
  7. Costa Rica (91)
  8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines (91)
  9. The Bahamas (91)
  10. Grenada (89)
  11. St. Kitts and Nevis (89)
  12. Belize (87)
  13. Argentina (85)
  14. Panama (83)
  15. US (83)
  16. Trinidad and Tobago (82)
  17. Jamaica (80)
  18. Suriname (79)
  19. Guyana (73)
  20. Brazil (72)
  21. Colombia (70)
  22. Ecuador (70)
US patriots sometimes portray "the land of the free and the home of the brave" as the only free nation in the Americas. That oversimplifies reality. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023


 We like to think of ourselves as logical, rational beings. Most of us are not. A typical human puts an intellectual veneer atop a set of core beliefs that flow from his or her emotional identity. This identity, the essence of who we really are, causes automatic thoughts to move from our subconscious brain to our conscious mind, overpowering any rationality that may be competing for our attention at that moment. Our minds are not a level playing field. Underlying beliefs coming from our heart are so powerful they will cause us to marginalize and argue even with the word of God. There is a strong element of personal pride involved. The Book of Mormon uses the phrase "pride of their hearts" to describe this foundational, deep-seated source of personal conviction that even prophets have difficulty penetrating.

  • "Puffed up in the pride of their hearts." 2 Nephi 28:15.
  • "They were lifted up in the pride of their hearts." Mosiah 11:19.
  • "Can ye be puffed up in the pride of your hearts?" Alma 5:53.
  • "Ye do walk in the pride of your hearts." Mormon 8:36.
There are many other instances of this phrase "pride of their hearts" in the text. Pride is a near-ubiquitous human condition. Psychologists often call it a "worldview" because it informs and controls how a person perceives their surroundings. "People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them." Philosopher Epictetus (ca. AD 50 - ca. AD 135) in the Enchiridion.

Bust of Epictetus, Stoic Philosopher

Examples of pejorative worldviews that dominate and define a person:
  • "I, I am the Lord's; and the others shall say: I, I am the Lord's; and thus shall every one say that hath built up churches, and not unto the Lord." 2 Nephi 28:3. "I represent God."
  • "And they shall teach with their learning, and deny the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance." 2 Nephi 28:4. "I am smart."
  • "There is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men." 2 Nephi 28:5. "Humans rule."
  • "If they shall say there is a miracle wrought by the hand of the Lord, believe it not; for this day he is not a God of miracles; he hath done his work." 2 Nephi 28:6. "Science explains everything."
  • "Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us." 2 Nephi 28:7. "Have fun."
  • "Lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this..." 2 Nephi 28:8. "Get ahead."
  • They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart..." 2 Nephi 28:13. "I have class."
  • "In many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." 2 Nephi 28:14. "I am educated."
  • "O the wise, and the learned, and the rich...and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms..." 2 Nephi 28:15. "I am sophisticated."
  • "Them that turn aside the just for a thing of naught and revile against that which is good, and say that it is of no worth!" 2 Nephi 28:16. "Rules don't apply to me."
  • "Others will he pacify, and lull them into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth..." 2 Nephi 28:21. "I am secure."
  • "Him that is at ease in Zion!" 2 Nephi 28:24. "Relax."
  • "We have received, and we need no more!" 2 Nephi 28:27. "Enough is enough."
  • "Those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God!" 2 Nephi 28:28. "God restricts me.."
  • "He had many wives and concubines." Mosiah 11:2. "Lust."
  • "They were supported in their laziness, and in their idolatry, and in their whoredoms, by the taxes..." Mosiah 11:6. "Easy money."
  • "Built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them with fine work of wood, and of all manner of precious things..." Mosiah 11:8. "Fancy houses."
  • "He placed his heart upon his riches, and he spent his time in riotous living..." Mosiah 11:14. "Hedonism."
  • "Made wine in abundance; and therefore he became a wine-bibber..." Mosiah 11:15. "Addictions."
  • "You that doth make a mock of his brother, or that heapeth upon him persecutions?" Alma 5:30. "You are inferior."
  • "Persist in supposing that ye are better one than another..." Alma 5:54. "I am superior."
  • "Persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?" Alma 5:55. "Greed."
  • "Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins." Mormon 8:32 "Money buys everything."
  • "Adorn yourselves with that which hath no life." Mormon 8:39 "Toys over people."
  • "Secret abominations to get gain..." Mormon 8:40 "Dog eat dog."
Can worldviews ever change? Yes, but it is very hard. It requires a "mighty change in your hearts" Alma 5:14 that few people ever attempt. 

Worldviews play a huge role in Book of Mormon geography. If your core belief is that the Book of Mormon is inspired fiction, you will find the modelling endeavor pointless. If your core belief is that the United States of America is God's gift to mankind, you are likely to look for Book of Mormon lands in Ohio. On the naturalism to exceptionalism spectrum, if your core belief is that the Book of Mormon was influenced more by human than by divine input, you are likely to prioritize archaeological field reports over inferences from the text. Your worldview will largely determine what sources you consult and the relative importance you assign to those sources as you visualize the text. Tell-tale phrases such as "I can't believe" and "it makes no sense" indicate someone's worldview is at work. 

As it says in Proverbs 23:7 "As he thinketh in his heart, so is he."  

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Maximum Extent of Book of Mormon Lands

 My friend, Warren Aston, sent me some information a few days ago about modelers who posit Book of Mormon lands covering about 1.5 million square miles. The entire contiguous US is about 3.1 million square miles (about the size of Australia), so these Book of Mormon geographers envision a territory about half the size of the lower 48. A land mass that large is simply out of the question. The text specifies distance in days of travel and the modest numbers it reports (1 day Helaman 4:7, 1.5 days Alma 22:32, 3 days Alma 8:6, 8 days Mosiah 23:3, 12 days Mosiah 24:25) are inconsistent with a surface area of 1.5 million square miles. Something on the order of 150,000 - 300,000 square miles is much more likely.

Those of us who locate Book of Mormon lands in Mesoamerica are generally comfortable with surface areas in the 150K to 300K range. This is the approximate extent of Mesoamerica. 

Mesoamerica in White

The white area in the map above is 342K square miles or 887K square kilometers. The red line is the longest straight line distance between any two points in the area. It is 1,200 miles or 1,932 kilometers in length. If the Book of Mormon happened in this space, as many believe, the text is describing a surface area with a maximum extent of about 300K square miles since the land far to the north was beyond Nephite terra cognita (3 Nephi 7:12, 13). Any blank spots on the Nephite map such as large tracts of wilderness could reduce the size of this area, so 150K square miles is still in the ballpark.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Proof Imperative

 At the end of the blog article "Biblical Passages Referencing the Book of Mormon" I include a list of passages from modern revelation that show the Lord will fulfill His prophecies and we are expected to take part in that fulfillment in the spirit of a fulfilled prophecy "proof mandate."

Many scriptural passages invoke an injunction to prove the word of God true.

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21.

"Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:2.

"I will send their words (the words of Isaiah & Jacob) forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true...God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words." 2 Nephi 11:3.

"My soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ, for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given..." 2 Nephi 11:4.

"My soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish." 2 Nephi 11:6.

"I (Jesus Christ) do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure." 2 Nephi 29:9.

"Ye also beheld that my brother (Alma) has proved unto you, in many instances, that the word is in Christ unto salvation." Alma 34:6

"My brother has called upon the words of Zenos...and also upon the words of Zenock; and also he has appealed unto Moses, to prove that these things are true." Alma 34:7.

"The Book of Mormon...which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels...- proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true..." D&C 20:8-11.

"Call on the holy prophets to prove his words, as they shall be given him (Joseph Smith)." D&C 35:23.

"Let my servant Oliver Cowdery assist him (W. W. Phelps, printer) copy, and to correct, and select, that all things may be right before me, as it shall be proved by the Spirit through him." D&C 57:13.


And many authors of sacred writ testify that their words are true.

"I know that the record which I make to be true." 1 Nephi 1:3.

"O my son, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true, and also that these records are true...the plates of Nephi are true; and we can know of a surety..." Mosiah 1:6.

"I know that these things are true because the Lord God has made them known unto me..." Helaman 7:29.

"So many evidences which ye have a witness that they are true." Helaman 8:24.

"We know our record to be true..." 3 Nephi 8:1.

"They know that their record is true for they all of them did see and hear..." 3 Nephi 17:25.

"I (Mormon) will show unto you hereafter that this record is true." 3 Nephi 18:37.

"And God shall show unto you, that that which I (Moroni) have written is true." Moroni 10:29.