Friday, June 7, 2019

Auditing Book of Mormon Geography Models

Several years ago, Jack Welch challenged me to devise a methodology to reasonably evaluate any Book of Mormon geography model no matter its setting. It has taken years of work and involved dozens of people, but we now have an audit tool, an Excel spreadsheet, that can be easily configured to accommodate a variety of different assumptions about the text and the surprisingly divergent interpretations that flow from those assumptions.

The only a priori assumption the audit procedure makes is that the Nephite text is consistent. Since virtually every scholar who has ever analyzed the text has come to this conclusion, we are on solid ground with this presumption of consistency.

The audit looks at every occurrence in the text of these key terms that are generally acknowledged by most modelers to be significant and relevant:
  • up & down (63 instances)
  • north, south, east & west with variants (northward, southward, south south east, etc.) (133 instances)
  • day's journey (22 instances)
  • cross over (28 instances)
That's a total of 246 textual instances of these key terms in a spatial context. Every one of these key terms involves a from and to relationship between two locations on the Book of Mormon map. That is a total of 492 from and to locations. Netting out duplicates yields 229 potentially different locations (some modelers conflate locations which is fine) that are required to pass all 246 tests.

The audit allows each modeler a great deal of flexibility in the way they interpret the text based on their assumptions. It measures completeness, internal consistency, and degree of fit to the text.
Audit Template Created by Lynn McMurray and LaMar Layton
The first model was audited last night, June 6, 2019. With a robust audit procedure in place, I predict rapid progress solving the Book of Mormon geography puzzle. There is no time to waste. Many BYU professors, even on the religion faculty, do not believe the Book of Mormon is historical and are not convinced that historicity matters.

June 11,  2019 Second audit completed today in Puebla, Mexico. Results agreed with the 6/6 audit.

June 18, 2019 Third audit completed today in Arizona. Results agreed with the 6/6 audit.

June 29, 2019 Reports have come in from several additional independent auditors in three countries, all of whom have confirmed the 6/6 audit results.

August 22, 2019 In working through an audit of the PasiĆ³n River Model, Bob Roylance found an error in version 20 of the audit spreadsheet. One instance of from location 177, Sidom, should have been from location 150, river Sidon. This error was corrected in spreadsheet version 21. The error did not affect the results of any previously reported audit, but auditors going forward should use the latest version of the audit tool because this correction will impact some models.

August 28, 2019 The Spanish translation of the audit spreadsheet was certified correct. Audits in Spanish can now proceed.

August 31, 2019 A Spanish version of the audit went online to aid those Hispanic members who do not have access to or do not wish to learn Microsoft Excel.