by BMAF Staff
Recently BMAF received a letter from a brother who at one time was very active in the Church. He has become disillusioned and is seriously considering leaving it. We think he knows that the Book of Mormon is the key. After all, the Lord told Joseph Smith that the Church was not to be organized until after the BofM was published and made available for people to read. It is, as Joseph Smith said, the cornerstone of our religion, a shining light to the gentiles and written to the Lamanites. Without it, it would be anybody's guess what would have happened, but it's not hard to imagine.
We wrote to this brother asking for his permission to put his article on this site and he agreed. We also asked him if he would attend the BMAF conference to counteract some of the nonsense he had heard at the FIRM conference. He said he would love to, but he and his son had tickets to an ex-MOS (ex-mormons) conference.
All right I TRIED
All right I TRIED. No, I really, really tried. My goal was to attend every lecture both days of the FIRM Convention. That's the Foundation for Indigenous Research in Mormonism. These are the kinds of people that Robert Kirby would call a mixture of Uber-Conservative Mormons and Nazi Mormons. (Before someone takes offense, I used to be a Nazi Mormon by definition). I even paid for both days with expectations that I would actually learn something that might strengthen my testimony of Mormonism. I really hoped that would be the case.
Let me give you my opinion. I've attended Network Marketing (MLMs) company presentations that were better organized than this. Come to think of it, there were many similarities. They couldn't find the links to some presentations and/or pictures. There was lots of down-time between speakers, and that wasn't all bad because it gave me a chance to read Denver Snuffer's book "Passing the Heavenly Gift".
But the thing that really surprised me was that every talk was really a sales presentation - books, CDs, tours to ancient Nephite burial grounds, paintings of Captain Moroni. I even heard one person tell another that one of the arrowheads on display was made by Nephi himself! I'd pay more for that artifact, wouldn't you? He may have been kidding. I fully expected to see pictures of Joseph Smith using braille over the golden plates.
One speaker, a g-g-grandson of an early Mormon bishop, showed us the sword that the prophet Joseph held up in Nauvoo. He also said, "We also have the sword of God and the sword of Laban." Now that sounded interesting. He really said that. So when he concluded his talk, I went to the back of the room where several others had also gathered to get a glimpse of Laban's and God's swords. I saw however, only the Joseph Smith sword. He had praised that sword like it had magical powers, but it looked rather ordinary - something that some 1840 dragoon or pirate would carry.
The speaker joined us a few minutes later and I asked him if I could see the other two swords. He said, "Ow, I didn't mean that literally." "But you said that you had "all three swords". " I know, but I didn't mean that we literally have all three - just the one." Oh, okay.
Another speaker was a part time tour guide and he told us how he felt the spirit in the middle of some field back east, that the Nephites did this or that there. Still another speaker's premise is that the Jaredites were a race of Black people and he could prove it and that the Olmec civilization became the remnants before they were all killed off. OK, if that's true, that makes a difference in my life how?
Oh yes, there was even one talk entitled "King Arthur and the Book of Mormon." I talked with him privately before he spoke and he told me that his premise was to show the similarities of the BOM and King Arthur's Court. (I'm really not making this stuff up).
The people who attended seem to be honest, God-fearing folks who just want to have more of their questions answered from their church - but the church doesn't answer because they don't know. These people want substantiation of their faith in a day when there is much in their faith to challenge. And so they seek out, in my opinion, snake charmers in white shirts and ties, with smiles on their faces, who will take fragments of evidence and then jump to big and unsubstantiated conclusions.
And of course, because they are LDS and attend church regularly, the leaders must be telling the truth. Sincere, maybe. Scholarly, definitely not in my opinion.
I was disappointed that they didn't really address some of the scientific problems and real issues with Mormonism today ie. DNA, linguistics, architectural and other problems with the Native Americans and the Book of Mormon, the funerary texts that JS claimed were his texts for the Book of Abraham, Polyandry in the early church, etc. Instead, they think to prove the Book of Mormon true by showing that there were some indigenous groups of people who left burial mounds in Ohio and Michigan who "could" have been the early Lehites. In retrospect, I guess I expected too much.
I've finally come to a conclusion. One cannot prove that the Book of Mormon is true through science. If one wants to believe in spite of scientific evidence, then do it. But, dear brothers and sisters, don't go to people who want to take your money in exchange for flimsy artifacts and "knowledge". Isn't that the definition of priest craft?
Sorry this is so long but I felt compelled to give you my opinion of this conference. As I said, I tried to last one full day, but just couldn't make
it through another speaker. I know. I'm weak.
Here are a few comments by BMAF members:
Jody Livingston I too spent the time and money to attend the two day conference at the request of a family member. I was somewhat familiar with their claims but of course was firm in my Mesoamerican theories. I was surprised to hear Wayne May state that his relics were authentic and that the Talmage tests done on the Michigan relics was out dated and insufficient. There also seemed to be so much American exceptionalism that it actually bothered me. The other portion that seemed odd to me was that Meldrum spent so much time trying to disprove Sorenson's reasons it couldn't have happened in N. America that it almost seemed hate filled. I actually decided to even attend an online conference FIRM had and had to laugh that another attendee quoted some of my Hopi evidences as further evidence for a N. American setting. I called him out and advised that the Hopi migrated from Mesoamerica and quoted some of Frank Waters Book of the Hopi and advised hid evidence was actually stronger evidence of a Mesoamerican setting.
Tyler Livingston The deception perpetuated by the Heartlanders is astounding to me. If they had a decent case they would present the evidence and wouldn't have to ignore and distort evidence. I'm glad you had a positive experience with Meldrum, that is rare. I have PAGES of just insults and personal attacks on me because I called into question the accuracy of his evidence. Instead of countering with evidence he would only become angry and call me names. This seems to be the norm if you seriously question his theory.
Greg Smith Short Summary of Problems with Rod Meldrum’s “Heartland” Book of Mormon Geography
Resources: Rodney Meldrum, DNA Evidence for Book of Mormon Geography: New scientific support for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon; Correlation and Verification through DNA, Prophetic, Scriptural, Historical, Climatological, Archaeological, Social, and Cultural Evidence (Rodney Meldrum, 2007), mail-order DVD. Another version also available in Bruce H. Porter and Rod L. Meldrum, Prophecies and Promises: The Book of Mormon & The United States of America (Salt Lake City, UT: Digital Legend, 2009) and a focus on DNA in Rod Meldrum, Rediscovering the Book of Mormon Remnant through DNA (Honeoye Falls, NY: Digital Legend Press, 2009).
FAIR, BMAF and other researchers have noted, among others, the following problems:
A. Appeals to revelation and attacks on other members
1. Meldrum uses appeals to personal revelation regarding his theory.
2. Meldrum attacks LDS scholars who do not agree with his theory, claims they “disdain and disparage” Joseph Smith, and accuses them of helping anti-Mormons.
3. Meldrum attacks BYU for its science curriculum.
4. Meldrum uses extensive testimonials that demonstrate that many in his audience understand that he is claiming revelation and certainty regarding his model.
5. Meldrum is forbidden to use Church facilities to hold or advertise his events.
6. Meldrum frequently relies on paranoia or conspiracy theories to explain why his model has not been accepted. This includes attacks on BYU, LDS scholars, LDS who offer a different model, the National Science Foundation, the National Association of Science, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, DNA researchers on mutation rates and dating haplotype X2a, Elder James E. Talmage and others who declared the Michigan relics to be forgeries, those who develop computer models, and North American archaeologists who find no evidence of metallurgy north of Mexico (see full text description of “Iron Age America” sold here). Despite making all his income from marketing his theory, Meldrum accuses those who disagree with having financial motives behind their disagreement, without admitting that the same might apply to him.
B. False and incomplete claims about Joseph Smith’s writings and attitude toward a variety of geographies
7. The Heartland Model falsely claims Joseph Smith had a revelation about Book of Mormon geography. Leaders of the Church have repeatedly taught that there is no revealed Book of Mormon geography.
8. The Heartland Model falsely claims that letters written by Joseph Smith in which he expressed interest in a non-North American model were not written by Joseph.
9. The Heartland Model falsely claims that Joseph Smith was in hiding and unable to oversee Church publications when reviews favorable to a non-North American model were published.
10. The Heartland Model claims that Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was on “this continent,” meaning North America. But, Joseph Smith and others often talked about the whole western hemisphere as a continent.
C. Use of forgeries and misrepresentation
11. The Heartland Model appeals to known forgeries to support his model. The Heartland Model claims that LDS scientists (including James E. Talmage) who identified the forgeries are biased “pseudoscientists.”
12. Meldrum helped produce another DVD about early North American history in which scientists interviewed claimed that their remarks had been edited and taken out of context to make it appear as if they supported claims which they do not.
13. The basic Heartland Model was originally proposed and later rejected by author Ed Goble, whose original work is nether recognized or attributed to by authors May and Meldrum who have claimed the model as their own.
D. DNA errors
The Heartland Model gets virtually everything about DNA wrong. Brigham Young University’s FARMS Review has a detailed discussion here. Some highlights:
14. Believing LDS scholars with expertise in DNA universally reject the Heartland Model.
15. The Heartland Model accuses LDS scholars and BYU professors of betraying members and the gospel because they do not accept his model.
16. LDS geneticists have overwhelmingly concluded that Lehi’s DNA signature is very unlikely to be detected, contrary to what the Heartland Model expects.
17. The Heartland Model ignores that if Lehi has any modern day descendants, then all modern day Amerindians are almost certainly his descendants. We cannot, genetically, confine Lehi’s descendants to a small group—the science just doesn’t work that way.
18. The Heartland Model’s reading of the X2a haplotype is wrong. Furthermore, he ignores that there are no examples of X2a in the Old World.
19. The Heartland Model claims that a desire to keep “evolutionary biology” and “old earth” dating leads scientists or some LDS members to distort the data to produce old date for X2a. He appeals to conspiracy theories to explain why non-LDS and LDS scientists do not accept his model.
20. The Heartland Model (1) misrepresents the papers cited for dating X2a, many of which are also out of date; and (2) ignores that problems with the model can be demonstrated in historical time, using known, modern human populations, with no appeal at all to evolutionary biology. It is true that evolutionary biology does not help the Heartland Model, but the model has failed long before evolution arguments are even raised. If one accepts evolution, then the Heartland Model has even bigger problems. If one does not, the model still fails based on objective, real-world tests in known populations.
E. Geography problems
The Heartland Model’s geography does not match the Book of Mormon text. A few examples are included below, and details on each are available here:
21. Hagoth cannot, as is claimed, navigate from the Great Lakes to the ocean.
22. The Mississippi River flows north to south; the Sidon flows south to north.
23. The Sidon should empty into the “seas,” which are the Great Lakes in the Heartland Model. The Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico, far away from these “seas.”
24. The confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers as the "head" of the river Sidon does not work, because this confluence is not in an area identified by the Book of Mormon as a "narrow strip of wilderness."
25. The Heartland Model uses the Ohio River as the geographic feature separating the land of Nephi from the land of Zarahemla, while the Book of Mormon indicates that the separating feature was a narrow strip of wilderness.
26. The Heartland Model has the land Bountiful southeast of Zarahemla; the Book of Mormon has it northward.
27. The Heartland Model elsewhere claims that Bountiful is directly north of the land of Nephi; in the Book of Mormon, Zarahemla is directly north of the land of Nephi.
28. The Heartland Model’s Land of Nephi does not stretch from east to west sea, as it would need to in order to match the Book of Mormon text.
29. The Book of Mormon has the sea west to the west of the Zarahemla and the land of Bountiful, but the Heartland Model has it east of Zarahemla and north of Bountiful.
30. The land of first inheritance should be on the west sea, west from the land of Nephi. The Heartland Model places it south of the land of Nephi, on the Gulf of Mexico that is not even one of the “seas” in his model.
31. Heartland Model requires Limhi’s rescue party to travel almost 1700 miles in error
32. Heartland Model misrepresents other members’ work, to make his seem more plausible.
33. Heartland Model buffalo evidence gets almost everything wrong.
34. John Sorenson (emeritus professor of anthropology, BYU) offers his own extensive list of cultural and geographical problems that make the model unworkable.
F. The Heartland Model misreads scripture and omits quotes from LDS leaders that disagree with his model.
35. Heartland Model ignores many scriptural uses of the term “land of promise” referring to a broader area than Missouri. At least ten LDS leaders (including Joseph Smith and Brigham Young) applied the term to all of North and South America, not just Missouri.
36. Heartland Model ignores Book of Mormon passages that place elements of the promised land outside the present-day (or Joseph’s day) United States—including the visit of Christopher Columbus, who never entered the modern day United States: his explorations were restricted to the Caribbean and Central America (he never traveled even as far north as Mexico).
37. Heartland Model uses a city founded by Mormons near Nauvoo (named “Zarahemla) to locate the Nephite city of Zarahemla. The model ignores that it was settlers who started calling it Zarahemla first, not scripture or Joseph Smith. The lines about Zarahemla were added later, for historical clarity, by an editor when the revelation was published.
38. Likewise, a city called “Manti” was ascribed to the prophet by later editors, but it was not in the original text.
39. Heartland Model’s confused discussion of “this land” distorts the Book of Mormon text.
G. Cultural problems
The Heartland Model uses a number of “parallels” that either exist in many geographical models, or misunderstands elements in the Book of Mormon text that don’t match his model.
40. Items in many models: armor, weapons, defensive works, cities, presence of dead bodies, bodies of water.
41. Heartland Model does not match the known archaeology of the Hopewell area that he wishes to make into the Nephites.
42. The Heartland Model’s seasonal and climate claims have problems; some Book of Mormon elements (e.g., extreme heat, rather than snow, in and end-of-the year battle) do not match his proposed geography.
43. The Heartland Model also misunderstands the evidence about population sizes and growth.
44. The Heartland Model misrepresents and misunderstands the issue of stone cities versus wood cities, and burning “stone” cities.
45. The Heartland Model’s list of “hits” is, in fact, either misses, or hits that are also hits in other models.