Peruvian Setting for the Book of Mormon

Mormon Hereticbook of mormon, geography, historicity, Mormon, science 24 Comments

It’s been some time since we talked about alternative Book of Mormon geography theories.  For those new to the site, you may want to see some of these other theories I mentioned:  Malay, and South America.

From time to time, I get an email from George Potter.  He has a website called the Nephi Project.  I heard him speak a few years ago on research he has done in Yemen.  His research is pretty well-respected, and it appears he has a very good candidate for Nephi’s Harbor, and he may have found the River Laman in Saudi Arabia that is mentioned by Lehi in the Book of Mormon.  (I really need to write a review of his and another researcher’s work–they are really good.)  Potter thinks that Lehi and his family followed the frankincense trail to Yemen before setting sail for the New World.

George has recently shifted his focus from the Old World to the New World.  George is a proponent that the Book of Mormon lands are in Peru.  His latest newsletter dated Oct 13, 2009, says,

10 Reasons Why the Book of Mormon Took Place in Peru

By George Potter

My new book, Nephi in the Promised Land is now available in the Nephi Project Discovery Store. When I started writing Nephi in the Promised Land, several people questioned my efforts. I heard typical comments like these: “The Book of Mormon people were the Mound Builders of North America.” “I took a cruise to Mexico, and our LDS guide showed us the ruins of Zarahemla.” While these members are sincere in their beliefs, they must either have an extremely limited knowledge of New World archaeology, or their version of the Book of Mormon is quite different from the one I grew up reading. Here is what my copy of the Book of Mormon states:

1. The Book of Mormon was inscribed on metal plates.

2. The Nephites mined gold and also worked copper and silver.

3. The Nephites made swords of steel, a derivative of iron.

4. The people of the Book of Mormon had herds of animals that could be described as sheep.

5. They also had animals that were described as horses.

6. The Nephites had a Semitic-like language.

7. The Nephites had a written language that became lost (Jacob 4:1,2).

8. The Nephites and Jaredites worshipped a white god who had the form of a man.

9. The Nephites had costly apparel.

10. The Jaredites built cities has early as the third millennium B.C.

These ten characteristics of the Book of Mormon people are not fringe elements of their storyline. During the next three months I will discuss, one by one, each of these elements of the Book of Mormon account and why they all point to Peru.

The newsletter lists a few more of the reasons Potter likes Peru. I’ve previously quoted from Potter’s newsletter when he heralded an iron ore discovery and Cohen DNA in Peru. What do you think?

Comments 24

  1. I think this is silly. Mormon describes a Nephite being able to “run” across the length of the land in a matter of days. Has Mr. Potter even considered that it is nigh impossible to run across Peru? It would seem that Guatemala has plenty of mountains, oh and… iron and gold… how about that. As for the ten points you note, how exactly do any of them confirm Peru and disconfirm Guatemala?

  2. dan, I haven’t reviewed potter’s theory in any depth. he is sending a series of 10 points where he discusses these 10 points in great detail. (he has sent out 6 so far.) regarding gold (point 2), he cities a FARMS article which says that gold has only been found in s america (not central) so he thinks this strengthens his position on peru. he has previously sent articles relating bom stories to incan legends.

  3. i don’t know potter’s proposed river. he does have a free dvd (if you pay $2 shipping) that probably has more details. AMA over at the GraceForGrace blog has reviewed it and perhaps he can shed some more light on this topic. I don’t know how similar potter’s theory is to priddis theory that I reviewed previously (link is in the top line of the original post.)

    I will say that potter and priddis share similarities in believing s america has a more similar climate to the mediterranean, better plant similarities. potter claims that dna evidence has been discovered in peru recently. this would be a big boost to the theory if potter’s claims are verified.

  4. MH – I always enjoy these interesting theories in your posts. What are your main reasons for dismissing the Mayan (Mesoamerican) Limited Geography theory that so many like best? (Deer? Steel?) Or do you actually like that one best?

    1. The conquistadors from Spain took just as much (if not more) gold from Perú and South America as they did from Mexico and Guatemala

  5. hmmm, very interesting about gold. i’ll have to check that FARMS reference that potter uses closer.

    as for favorite theories, they all have pros and cons. I think Sorensen has added a much needed level of scholarship to the area of bom geography and I appreciate his work. but I don’t think his narrow neck of land is narrow. the bom talks of the land northward and southward, but sorensen’s location is more of an east-west orientation.

    the sword that sorensen proposed that the aztecs used is made of wood and obsidian-sharp, but incapable of rust. the anti-nephi-lehies said the steel swords rusted, and steel doesn’t seem to have been used by aztecs or olmecs.

    of course there are animal, silk, and dna problems too. the people who support sorensen seem to look down on other theories, yet don’t like to acknowledge sorensen’s weaknesses. I just want to be open to other possibilities. I can’t say i’m satisfied with potter either, but his work in yemen and saudi arabia is excellent and I think he methods are worth an equal evaluation with sorensen.

  6. Ok, here’s the Potter quote:

    A Neal A. Maxwell Institute (F.A.R.M.S) online paper states: “Complex and sophisticated metallurgical technologies in the pre-Columbian New World, however, are presently recognized only in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Chile, where copper was smelted from rare copper arsenides, sulfates, and chlorides.”(Emphasis Added) Metal, in particular gold, silver, and copper are mentioned throughout the Book of Mormon. Jacob wrote that the land of promise abounds in precious metals (Jacob 2:12).

    The footnote is

    FARMS (now Neal A Maxwell Institute), “Copper, Bronze, and Brass” (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University, 2000), 1.

    You can find the whole article at FARMS. The FARMS article deals more with copper than gold. Here are some key points from the FARMS article:

    Although Nephi’s tools were most likely made of iron or steel, bronze remains a possibility. Thus a review of the development of copper and its alloys may be in order and of special interest to readers of the Book of Mormon.

    In the modern world, brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, and bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Understanding the copper alloys of the ancient or medieval world, however, requires an explanation.

    In antiquity the words bronze and brass did not exist. Brass is an English word derived from braes (Old English) and bres or bras (Middle English) about 1200 AD.55 In the language of Tudor England, brass stood for any copper alloy, and the King James Bible uses the word in that context.56 Joseph Smith, favoring the King James Bible, translated the Book of Mormon using brass in the same manner. In a few verses of the Old Testament the Hebrew word for copper is even translated “steel”57 (2 Samuel 22:35; Job 20:24; Psalm 18:34; Jeremiah 15:12) and “amber” (Ezekiel 1:4, 27; 8:12).

    The word bronze did not come into use before the 18th century and did not exist in Tudor England.58 It does not appear in the King James Bible (it does appear in other versions of the Bible) or in the Book or Mormon, and the objects designated “brass” were most likely the tin-copper alloy.

    The article seems to be written more for geology aficionados. Potter’s quote of the FARMS article’s 4th paragraph.

  7. All these theories about where the Book of Mormon people’s lived and died is interesting. But is a very small dot on the map of the real value of the Book of Mormon for latter day followers of Christ.

    I don’t want to throw a cold towel on this hot topic–so consider my comment as a footnote.

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  9. I’m still curious how exactly Mr. Potter thinks Nephites were able to run around Peru. Thing is that when you read the Book of Mormon, you don’t get the impression that it took place among massive peaks and mountains.

  10. dan, let’s not forget that most people who read the bom for the first 100 years or so believed the nephites covered all of n and s america.

  11. A couple things to add:

    1. Early BoM readers did not even think that there were other people here when groups arrived. Based on the huge numbers of people that were involved in the wars throughout the BoM it is pretty clear that other groups of people that were not with the three groups that came over were here already.
    2. The Incas (and to some lesser extent the Maya) are well known for their road building prowess and their ability to communicate over large distances with runners on these roads. The Incas had communication runners all over peru and possibly further north and south than they are normally give credit for.
    3. So much of the BoM geography changed after the nephites had been around for 600+ years and really trying to pinpoint anything with any accuracy is difficult at best and most of the authors trying to pinpoint locations suffer from a serious bias since if they are wrong their whole life’s work goes down the drain.

    Anyway just a few thoughts. Take them for what they are worth.

  12. Something else I thought of, Joseph Smith mentions the remains of a nephite Altar or Temple at Adam-ondi-Ahman. If we accept that Joseph had any clue what he was talking about then where does that place BoM Geography? If true it would be a major hit on any Malay theory and also force one to rethink the meso and SA theories as well without some huge nephite drift.

  13. Another problem I have with Peru is the geophysics associated with the crucificion catastrophe. It’s easy to get the volcanism, pyroclastic flows, tidal waves, and tremors pictured in the scripture along the Peruvian coust, but it would then be cities on the WEST coast you’d expect to sink in the sea. Moroni is clearly given as a city on the EAST coast.

    By contrast. in the Meso model, there is conveniently an east-west plate tectonics boundary (like the famous San Andreas fault) between the North American and Caribbean plates that runs from the Gulf of Honduras (Cayman Trough) across the mountainous strip that bordered the Lamanite lands from those of the Nephites. It is physically capable of generating all the observed effects (and has hurricanes and tempests in the area as well) and can drown cities on the EAST coast.

    Also, don’t be too concerned by the orientation of the “narrow neck of land”, MH. While we picture north, east, west, and south as covering each 90 degrees of arc, Mayans did not because of their ties to the sun. Because the earth’s orbit swings only 23 degrees maximum from the plain of rotation, east or west was each imagined as only covering about 46 degrees, while north or south each covered about 134 degrees. The Book of Mormon has a lot of “land northword” in this model, even if we’d consider it as west or east.

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    FireTag, I’ll take your word on plate techtonics, etc. It’s out of my expertise.

    But the north-south orientation is a big issue with alternative theorists, as well as skeptics of the Book of Mormon. As I have said before, Potter has done some excellent work on Old World BoM geography. The BoM says Nephi travelled in a south-southeast direction for a long time, and then headed due east after burying Ishmael at Nahom. Potter and others feel this accurately describes the Frankincense trail, and Nahom (see my post on Nahom)has been discovered in Yemen. So, it seems that Nephi was following conventional north-south directions. For him to navigate all the way to the New World (Peru, Yucatan, Chile, New Orleans, Malay – wherever one thinks he went), and then suddenly get the directions fouled up in Meso because of the sun seems a bit of a stretch to me.

  15. I am with you regarding the Frankencense trail. However, once they turned over direction at sea to the brass ball, it didn’t matter what Nephi thought about directions (there are no descriptions of directions during the sea voyage).

    But there are many centuries between Mormon and Nephi, and only 1 brass ball. How do the Nephites keep track of dorection in the interval. God may have GPS, but they don’t.

    Answer: they start to use what all ancient cultures in Mesoamerica do — they use the sun.

    The 23 degree thing isn’t a Book of Mormon guess about the Mayans. That’s pure archeology. The Mayans use rectangles to denote directions the way we use circles, and the rectangles are compressed to the east and west. When there are persons in the rectangle, the head faces the east.

    In fact, if my memory serves, I think Givens cites a paper in which the relative mention of North, South, East, and West in the BofM is approximately the right ratio to match the relative “sizes” of North vs East. I’ll try to find the reference.

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    Interesting. My book club has Givens book “By the Hand of Mormon” on the schedule in a few months. I’ll check that in a few months, but if you can find it sooner, that would be great. I’m not sure the Aztecs are a good enough fit for Lamanites, but I know Sorensen thinks they might be the best fit. I’m looking forward to Givens’ book. I know you and I have talked about Joseph trying to translate the best he could using English words. While I think there is certainly merit to this idea, I think Sorensen does take this too far on some instances. I’d like to learn more about Aztec directions to see if this matches BoM geography. I’m wondering if Morgan Deane can weigh in on this–it seems he has some familiarity with central American war theories, and I am curious if he is familiar with these possible directional problems for the Aztecs.

  17. Pingback: Book of Mormon Maps | Mormon Heretic

  18. Having such a loving Father and a wonderfukl big Brother as our Jesus , how can anyone doubt the Book of Mormon. Aren”t parents supposed to love all their children?

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