Thursday, October 3, 2013

Test #1 Ups and Downs

Several Book of Mormon maps, advocated by impassioned proponents, currently circulate in LDS and Restoration Branch circles. John L. Sorenson has just made a major contribution to this effort with his massive 826 page Mormon's Codex: An Ancient American Book, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2013 which was generally available in bookstores along the Wasatch Front by September 11, 2013.

Yesterday we published the latest edition of our Book of Mormon Model that runs on Google Earth. We believe this model, in progress since 2011, is the most empirically rigorous and sophisticated attempt to date to correlate the text of the Book of Mormon with the modern map. We are now going to up the ante. What follows is the first of several tests that demonstrate our correlation may be correct, that at minimum it fits the text precisely and consistently. We submit that any correlation, in order to be taken seriously, should pass these same tests.

The first version of this article used the word "proof" rather than "test." Some very bright people such as Mark Wright (BYU) and Bill Dever (University of Arizona) convinced me the word "proof" is radioactive and entirely unattainable. The best we can hope for is a point along the balance of probability that is beyond reasonable doubt.

Test #1. The LDS 2013 text of the Book of Mormon uses the word "up" 613 times and the word "down" 361 times. The word "up" appears 71 times in a topographical context with identifiable from and to points. The word "down" appears 74 times in a topographical context with identifiable from and  to points. Many of the 71 and 74 instances of elevational "up" and "down" refer to the same from and to couplets. For example, Mormon 3:10 says there was a rise in elevation between the then Nephite capital, the city of Desolation, and the then Lamanite stronghold (unnamed). This same relationship, from Desolation up to the Lamanite stronghold, gets repeated in Mormon 3:14, 3:16, 4:1 and 4:4. The text also describes a corridor of temporary defensive camps between the local land of Zarahemla and the west coast Bountiful/Desolation line 3 Nephi 3:23. Gadianton robbers both north and south 3 Nephi 4:1 of this corridor came down from multiple mountain wilderness retreats 3 Nephi 4:1 and got very hungry occupying empty Nephite settlements. The Gadiantons' mountain strongholds were higher in elevation than the corresponding portions of the Nephite defensive corridor 3 Nephi 3:25. The defensive corridor in turn was higher in elevation than the recently-abandoned permanent Nephite settlements 3 Nephi 4:4-7, 4:16. This Gadianton wilderness down to defensive corridor down to abandoned settlement pattern existed at multiple points along the corridor. For purposes of this test, we have limited our sample data to 4 representative locations that lie on both sides of the corridor. The same 4 representative locations illustrate the relationship of multiple Gadianton wilderness strongholds down to the local land of Zarahemla 3 Nephi 3:3-4, 3:8, 3:12, 3:17, 3:20-21.

Netting out duplicates and using 4 likely locations to represent what may have been dozens of Nephite refugee camps and robber hideouts, we end up with 37 discrete point a up to point b relationships and 41 separate point a down to point b relationships attested in the text. We plot each of these points with Google Earth, note Google Earth's elevation metric for that place, and calculate the elevation difference in an Excel spreadsheet. If we see 37 positive numbers on the "up" sheet and 41 negative numbers on the "down" sheet, our correlation has passed the test. As with all images on this blog, click to enlarge. The "up" sheet:
Spreadsheet showing 37 vertical rises
And, the associated "down" sheet:
Spreadsheet showing 41 vertical drops
The spreadsheet xlsx file is available for download here.

Each from location is numbered F01 through F28 on the vertical rise (up) spreadsheet and F29 through F49 on the vertical drop (down) spreadsheet. Each to location is numbered T01 through T25 on the vertical rise (up) spreadsheet and T26 through T47 on the vertical drop (down) spreadsheet.

This map shows from and to points in the Near East.
Places marked on this map of the Near East represent
from and to points on the elevational spreadhseets
This map is a closeup of the greater Jerusalem area.
Proposed Book of Mormon correlates near Jerusalem
This area along the Syrian/Turkish border is where many think the Tower of Babel and Valley of Nimrod were located. Most other correlations near ancient Babylon in modern Iraq contradict the text of the Book of Mormon.
Candidate for the Shinar area in the
Khabur triangle of northern Syria 
Proposed Book of Mormon sites in the Levantine area:
Parts of modern Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Israel
Likely location of the land Bountiful:
Wadi Sayq along the coast of Oman
If the Jaredites crossed the Pacific Ocean, as their 344 days of drift time Ether 6:11 imply, then this coastal peak near Pingyang, China is a striking candidate for Mount Shelem.
Proposed Book of Mormon correlates along the Chinese coast
Our Mesoamerican correlates with up or down relationships attested in the text:
Places marked on this map of southern Mesoamerica
represent points on the elevational spreadsheets
Local land of Nephi and environs in the greater Guatemala City area:
Proposed Book of Mormon sites in Kaminaljuyu (city of Nephi) area
City of Manti and environs in Quiche and Alta Verapaz:
Proposed Book of Mormon sites in Chama (city of Manti) area 
Nephite culture core in north eastern Chiapas, Tabasco, and the north western Peten:
Proposed Book of Mormon sites in the local land of Zarahmela
and the lands of Gideon and Ammonihah
Nephite defensive corridor shown in light blue overlay in the San Cristobal de Las Casas - Ocosingo, Chiapas area:
Proposed Nephite sites in and around the land between
Zarahemla and the land Bountiful (defensive corridor)
Test #1 conclusion. If the Book of Mormon text says "up" we calculate vertical rise. If the text says "down" we calculate vertical drop. Plotting 75 discrete points and calculating the elevational differences between 78 different from and to relationships attested in the text, our correlation fits the text 100%. There are no discrepancies. We believe any viable text to map correlation will show similar results.

We believe this rigorous empiricism accomplishes a number of important things:
  • It evidences a viable geographic setting exists for the Book of Mormon.
  • It demonstrates precision in the text.
  • It shows consistent word usage between the Old World and New World portions of the text.
  • It establishes a high standard of evidence any proposed correlation should meet.
  • It is based on results easily reproduced by anyone who uses Google Earth.