Interpreter Peer Reviewed

Interpreter Peer Reviewed

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Chiasm in the Interpreter

I've been asked to comment on the Interpreter's article on the chiasm I proposed for Alma 22:27. I'm doing an interlinear commentary that will be out next week.

At the outset, I reiterate my overall approach to the question of Book of Mormon geography. It is impossible to develop a coherent "abstract geography" because the text is too vague. That's why there are dozens or hundreds of proposed geography theories.

But I don't think that's a defect in the text; ancient texts are inherently vague because people didn't have measurement technology that we're accustomed to now. Try to construct an abstract map of the Bible without using any of the sites we know today and you'll see what I mean. Even after centuries of research, we don't know where Mount Sinai is. When I studied Greek, we read Xenophon's Adabasis as a text. Good luck constructing a consensus abstract map from that. So in a real sense, the inherent vagueness of the Book of Mormon is another evidence of its authenticity as an ancient text.

And yet, we do have maps of the Bible and of Xenophon's march through Persia. Why? Because we know--by extrinsic evidence--where certain cities are located. With those known locations, we can sort out most of the rest (but not all, as Sinai demonstrates).

To understand Book of Mormon geography, I started with a hypothesis that we have two "pins in the map" from the D&C: Cumorah in New York (D&C 128) and Zarahemla in Iowa (D&C 125). I recognized that both of them are controversial, but these are, after all, canonized statements.

To text my hypothesis, I tackled the text to see if the geography passages fit those pins in the map. I didn't know what the outcome would be, but after doing the work, I reached the conclusion that the text does actually fit those two pins. The fit is far better than I thought would be possible, based on my decades of following the ongoing chaos of the Mesoamerican theories.

With this understanding of the text, everything is reconciled: the text, what Joseph and Oliver said, Church history events, and the archaeology, anthropology, geology, and geography.

It was a big difference from how I'd understood these issues for decades.

To accept the Mesoamerican theory, like all Mormons who accept that theory, I had to reject two of the three witnesses. I had to assume Joseph Smith wrote anonymous articles in the Times and Seasons, changed his mind, speculated--and after all that, was factually wrong. I had to believe the text was mistranslated because Joseph didn't understand Mayan culture. I had to believe the experts at BYU and CES were right about all of this because... well, because they were the experts. In believing all of this, I had to accept the citation cartel's logical fallacies, misrepresented citations, and ad hominem attacks against anyone who challenged them.

I have to say, I was happy to reject the Mesoamerican theory.

So I wrote Moroni's America.

I'm glad to see the Interpreter publish a review. I'll incorporate the feedback into the second edition, along with all the other feedback I'm getting.

I think it would be even better if the Interpreter would publish my articles, or at least my response and/or rebuttals, but the editors have told me they won't publish my material because they disagree with it, and they censure my comments when I try to post them to their web page, so the only outlet I have is these blogs.

One of the first things I looked for in the latest Interpreter article was a reference to Oliver Cowdery and Letter VII. There is none. Consequently, the entire premise for Moroni's America is ignored in this review.

Surely that's not merely an oversight.

But again, I appreciate the review and I hope this can lead to additional productive discussions with everyone interested in the topic.

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