When I think of the Baja California Peninsula, I think of the Baja 1000 off-road race where people take lots of vehicles and cross the deserts in all sorts of vehicles. However, the father-son team of David and Lynn Rosenvall believe the Baja Peninsula (south of California in Mexico–its most famous city you may recognize is Tijuana) could be the location of Book of Mormon lands. I’ve been promising to do a post on this theory, and it is time to review it in more detail.
This review should not be considered comprehensive. I have reviewed their 60 page pdf file called “An Approach to Book of Mormon Geography“. Since I downloaded and read a copy of this article, they have added a few more articles found on their Geography page, but I have not had time to review these. I will invite David and Lynn to stop by and answer questions about their theory.
I have reviewed a few other theories in the past. I reviewed BOMC’s Great Lakes Theory, Ralph Olsen’s Malay Theory, and Venice Priddis’ South American Setting. My purpose in reviewing theories is to provide constructive criticism. Some people have very thin skin, and I try to be charitable, providing both pros and cons to a theory. I want someone’s theory to be right, so it is imperative to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of a theory. I claim no allegiance to any theory–it’s just a topic I love to discuss. I still plan to review two of the bigger heavyweights: Sorenson’s Theory, and Meldrum’s Theory. Additionally, Theodore Brandley’s North American Theory, and Garth Norman’s MesoAmerican Theory are also future topics I plan to post on (lest anyone think I was running out of ideas.) (Norman and Sorenson overlap quite a bit, but there are some important differences.)
Lynn Rosenvall is a geography professor at the University of Cardston, and received his PhD in geography from Cal-Berkeley. His son David has an MBA from BYU and is Chief Technological Officer of Imergent Inc. (StoresOnline.com). They’ve put together an impressive array of satellite maps using Google maps for their theory. The Website dedicated to the theory is called A Choice Land. I printed a copy of the Theory from Feb 2009–the current version on the website is from March 2009. I’m not sure how long it has been published, but as I understand it, the theory is pretty new.
I guess the first striking feature to me about this theory is the fact that the Peninsula is much more of a north-south orientation than Sorenson’s MesoAmerican theory. Another strength of Baja is that the “narrow neck of land” is actually narrow–Sorenson’s narrow neck isn’t nearly as narrow. Another bonus is the fact that the Baja Peninsula is much closer to the generally accepted Book of Mormon locations than say the Malay Theory.
In the overview article, the Rosenvalls go into great detail on showing how similar the climate of Baja California is to the Mediterranean. Nephi says he brought seeds with him to the New World, and these seeds grew. It is important for the climates to be similar. (Another theory I reviewed shows Chile/Peru have Mediterranean climates as well.) I think this is an important aspect of their theory. The Rosenvalls point out that many of the fruits and vegetables we eat in America are grown on the Baja Peninsula.
The Rosenvalls seem to follow Sorenson’s methodology for calculating distances. I view this as one of Sorenson’s greatest contributions to Book of Mormon research, and I’m glad to see that the Rosenvalls seem to follow a similar method for calculating distances. It is pretty apparent to me that the Book of Mormon lands are much smaller than the hemispheric models that early Mormons (and many lay members) thought about the Book of Mormon.
The Rosenvalls make a case that the Uto-Aztecan language bears similarities to Hebrew. I think this is both a strength and a weakness, but I’m putting this in the strength section. Frankly, I think the Rosenvalls should really expand on this point. I note that there is more information in the new PDF than the one I downloaded last year, but I think it should be expanded upon further. This has the potential to be a big help with their theory.
Since I mentioned languages, I ought to explain weaknesses as well. While these language families are in the Southwestern US and mainland Mexico, I don’t believe there is evidence that Indians on the Baja Peninsula spoke in one of these language dialects. Perhaps they traveled off the Baja Peninsula, but these ties need to be strengthened to really take advantage of this information. Even if there are similarities between Uto-Aztecan languages, I’m not aware of any DNA evidence linking Uto-Aztecan tribes to the Mediterranean, which is another problem.
While I understand this is an introduction to the theory, there are many other aspects of Book of Mormon that are merely touched on, or completely missing. The theory discusses flora and fauna extensively, but doesn’t discuss wheat, barley, or silk. Animals aren’t mentioned either, such as the elephants or animals mentioned in the Book of Mormon. What is the best candidate for cureloms and cumons? Is there evidence for sheep, horses, or cows?
Additionally, does the archaeology date to Book of Mormon times? Is there evidence that chariots existed? Have swords, cimitars, or other weapons been found? I will say as a general rule, that most North, Central, or South American theories cannot find any evidence archaeologically for many of the weapons mentioned in the Book of Mormon. For a theory to really stand out, such evidence needs to be found.
Sorenson has found a sharp weapon that he is calling a sword: sharp obsidian triangular blades attached to a wooden club, but the Book of Mormon says the swords rusted, so however sharp and lethal Sorenson’s obsidian/wood weapon is, it certainly wont rust. This type of evidence needs to be accounted for by any theory, and the lack of mention of these problematic parts of the Book of Mormon needs to be addressed in the overview.
I’ve come across Morgan Deane, and I invited him to participate in this discussion on my blog previously. Morgan has his own site called Warfare and the Book of Mormon. Morgan has a Masters Degree in History, and has presented papers on Napoleonic warfare and published papers about Asian, Napoleonic and Book of Mormon Warfare. Since the Rosenvalls included information about battles (roughly pages 36-50), I asked Morgan what he thinks of Baja geography in relation to some of these battles. Here is what he said,
From a military history standpoint I only noticed one thing: They mentioned the rate of travel during a battle would be slower than normal. (p.54) I think the rate of travel would actually be FASTER if you were manuevering for survival. For example, one of Stonewall Jackon’s infantry units travelled 50 miles in one day when threatened with destruction.
They also make the claim that the Jaredites were destroyed down to a single person. Most scholars and scholarship suggest that a significant amount of Jaredites survived and influenced Nephite society. (Starting with Hugh Nibley in “The World of the Jaredites”) They also fail to mention the point made by Firetag. So they crossed the Pacific but never expanded across a small bay? I should mention that Nephi spent 7 years travelling in “the land of the north”, so its possible that some Nephite lands were farther away and simply never mentioned due to the Zarahemla-centric record keepers.
Finally, why would a victorious Lamanite nation abandon all of their cities, in addition to the newly conquered Nephite cities? Wouldn’t we expect to find a large and advanced tribe in the Baja area with a long history? If the land was so choice, why leave it?
Here is the link where I mention their site before. http://mormonwar.blogspot.com/2009/11/nephihah-in-google-earth.html
David clarified his position on the Jaredites here.
We never make the claim that the Jaredites were destroyed down to a single person. The Book of Mormon doesn’t even say that. We wrote an article you can read if you want to get our official stand on the Jaredites (http://www.achoiceland.com/jaredites). It has strong correlation to Baja California.
So, what do you think of this Baja Theory?