Monday, April 16, 2007

Great Lakes Limited Geography Theory

Most LDS scholars agree that the Book of Mormon lands are located somewhere around Mesoamerica. However, as I pointed out in my previous post, there are no specific cities found, only ideas of general regions and landscapes. There is also evidence of civilizations during the same time period, although the culture doesn't closely resemble the descriptions in the Book of Mormon. The other problem is that Joseph Smith said that he recieved the golden plates in upstate New York on a hill called hill Cumorah, which happens to be located just over a mile from where Joseph Smith lived in Palmyra, NY at the time. The hill Cumorah is the only official church location from the Book of Mormon.

This would lead me to believe that perhaps all the LDS scholars are looking in the wrong place. If Joseph Smith found the golden plates in upstate New York, it would make sense that other cities and locations are in that area, and not Mesoamerica. For example, I already discussed the difficulty with the '2 Cumorahs' theory, it contradicts what Joseph Smith said. This led me to look closer at the Great Lakes Geography theory. It would make more sense that the Book of Mormon lands would be within close proximity to upstate, NY where Joseph Smith said the golden plates were buried. Afterall, Joseph Smith always said there was only one Cumorah.

In my previous post, I talked about the difficulty that LDS scholars have had in finding physical locations for cities and geographic regions. Anytime anyone tries to place the Book of Mormon geography anywhere in the real world, they(LDS scholars) can't agree on it, they have to skew the descriptions in the Book of Mormon or stretch assumptions, and have to contradict what Joseph Smith and other prophets have said. Perhaps they are looking in the wrong place.

When you look at the area that surrounds Palmyra, NY, (click on the map to enlarge) you notice right away that there are 2 large bodies of water between a narrow neck of land that is only 30 miles wide. There is a land to the north (Canada) and a land to the south (USA). There is also a body of water to the north and the Atlantic Ocean is located in the Southeast. This geography model is known as the Great Lakes Limited geography theory. Although this theory is not very popular, I think it is the most relevant if we are to consider that Joseph Smith found the plates at the hill Cumorah.

A Bombshell!

The most fascinating thing I discovered was that the names of cities in USA and Canada are very similar to the names mentioned in the Book of Mormon.

Below is the names of actual Cities that I found using Google Earth. These cities did not exist during pre-Colombian times because Native Americans in this area didn't practice the concept of owning land. However, the names of these cities existed during the time of Joesph Smith. (Click on the map to enlarge)

Now, compare the names of cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon below.
Did Joseph Smith simply copy city names from maps of his surrounding area? It is unlikely that he used maps as the sole source of city names. To the right, you can see Lehigh county was well established on an 1823 map of Pennsylvania. However, other cities were not established until decades later. However, those city names were definetly used by people that lived in those areas. So each of the cities mentioned above either existed on maps or by word of mouth in the 1820's. We can place the Book of Mormon city names on the physical map and consider the descriptions in the Book of Mormon to see if they are consistent.

Descriptions in the Book of Mormon

It seems reasonable that a New Yorker in the 1800's would consider "The land Northward" Canada. However, before we jump to any conclusions, lets look at all the facts. Let's first look at the Geography as described in the Book of Mormon and compare it with the area.

Narrow neck of Land

it was only the distance of a day and a half’s journey...from the east to the west sea...there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward.

There is a narrow strip of land that is only 30 miles wide between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The lakes and the narrow strip border Canada.

Teancum vs. Tecumseh

The City Teancum in the Book of Mormon is described as being "in the borders by the seashore" Mormon 4:3.

The city Tecumseh, Ontario, Canada is located along the Canadian border by the seashore. (click on the map to enlarge)

Lamanite Cities

Jerusalem, Jacobugath and Kishkumen were Lamanite cities in the Book of Mormon. We can assume they were within reasonable proximity to each other. The city of Alma was named after Alma, who was a Lamanite high priest, but led an exodus of slaves out of bondage from the Lamanites. The Valley of Alma was the distance of an entire day's journey from the Lamanite cities. (Mosiah 24:20-21)

Jerusalem, OH, Jacobsburg, OH, and Kiskiminetas, PA are within close proximity to each other. Alma, WV is also located nearby. Notice there is a valley between the "Lamanite cities" and the city of Alma. (click on map to enlarge)

Land of Lehi-Nephi and Shilom vs. Lehigh County and Shiloh

In the Book of Mormon, The Land of Lehi-Nephi is described as being close to where Lehi and his family first arrived by boat onto the Americas. It is also safe to assume that in the Book of Mormon, Lehi-Nephi and Shilom were close to each other, because the fortified their walls at the same time. (Mosiah 9:8 ) It also mentions people looking for the land of Lehi-Nephi for 40 days and stumbling across a hill just north of Shilom.

Lehigh County, PA and Shiloh, NJ appear to be within reasonable distance from each other. (Click on Map to Enlarge) Lehigh County is also close to the Atlantic Ocean, a possible landing area of Lehi.

The Jaredite Nation

Ether 10:20-21
“…the place where the sea divides the land…they did preserve the land southward for a wilderness, to get game. And the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants.”

So all the Jaredite cities are in the land Northward, above the East and Western Seas that divide the Northern Land and Southern Land that have the narrow neck of land between them.

Ramah, Moron and Ogath are Jaredite cities in the Book of Mormon, and Jaredite cities are all in the "land northward".

Rama, Morin and St. Agathe are cities found in Canada, or the "land northward" from the perspective of a New Yorker in the 1800's.
(click map to enlarge)

An Astonishing Coincidence?

A few years ago, John E. Clark put together an evaluation for the Limited Great Lakes setting. However, he had no mention whatsoever of the similar names, geography, and matching distances. All he says in his nearly 60 page report is that there is no way the Book of Mormon took place near the Great Lakes.

This quote says it all regarding his conclusion as to the Great Lakes as a setting for the Book of Mormon: "None of the geographical correlations is convincing"

It appears to me that by reading this evaluation that John Clark is trying his hardest to try to talk people out of investigating the Great Lakes region. Probably because as they do so, they will discover what I did. Similar names and geographic regions that match exactly with the Book of Mormon.

When I showed the similarity between Mormon cities and actual cities to a good friend of mine, he said that he doesn't believe Joseph Smith copied maps because it would have been TOO OBVIOUS. My friend argued that Joseph Smith would never do something that obvious because how could he think he could get away with it. But that makes you wonder why LDS scholars haven't been able to find a single location for any Book of Mormon city. They have been actively looking for over 50 years. They haven't found a single location, city or artifact that supports the Book of Mormon.

It is reasonable to assume that Joseph Smith used the Great Lakes region as the main source to the geography in the Book of Mormon. There are few contradictions within the Book of Mormon itself as to the geography. It isn't until you try to place it in the real world that you start to have problems.

For example, in the Book of Mormon, the Hill Cumorah is located in Ramah, which should be in the "Land Northward". However, the hill Cumorah in Palmyra, NY as shown in the photo to the left, is south of the Great lakes. The limited Great Lakes theory would still require 2 Cumorahs, contradicting What Joseph Smith said. Perhaps Joseph used the Great Lakes region to create the Book of Mormon, but had the idea of the Hemispheric model, or the traditional model in mind. The paradox facing Joseph Smith's story is that the location of the Hill Cumorah in upstate NY doesn't match any limited geography theory.

Why haven't LDS scholars found a single city or artifact to support the claims of the hisoricity of the Book of Mormon? I will talk about Archaeology and the Book of Mormon in my next blog.

Skeptical Mormon


Equality said...


Great posts so far. Do you mind if I add your blog to my list of DAMU/Oter Blogness blogs that I have listed at my blog, Equality Time?

Your post on the names is the best I have seen on the subject (there was a phony map making the rounds a few years ago that had more names on it. I'm afraid that because it was fake, it did more damage than good on the subject). One further name coincidence. The capital city of the Comora (sp) Islands in the Atlantic is Moroni.

Zelph said...

Yes, I would love for anyone to help me out, let me know your URL and I will also return the favor.

John Hamer said...

Zelph ---

According to your map, you're placing "Ramah" in Ontario. Ramah is the Jaredite name for Cumorah. Are you arguing for a two Cumorah theory, where the Book of Mormon Cumorah/Ramah is in Canada, across the lake from Joseph Smith's Cumorah?

Zelph said...

John Hamer,

Yes, that is correct. It doesn't make any sense at all. The hill Cumorah is supposed to be located north of the East and West sea. This just demonstrates to me that Joseph Smith made the whole thing up, however the geography is still based on the area around Palmyra.

John Hamer said...


I'm enjoying your blog, but you haven't convinced me on this point. I've looked into Book of Mormon geography pretty extensively. I think there's every reason to believe that existing place-names influenced Joseph Smith's composition, but one shouldn't imagine that the internal geography of the Book of Mormon somehow corresponds with actually geography of the place names. Although Joseph Smith described a "Great Lakes" environment in the Book of Mormon (the only environment he knew), I think there's no doubt that the "Hemispheric" conception is what is meant by the text.

ungewiss said...

You just blew my mind. Seriously.

What is the apologetic response to this amazing "coincidence?" Dare I ask?

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen this letter?

It seems to me that the church is still clueless.

Anonymous said...

Great, more desperate theories about how that ole joe smith wrote that dern book of mormon. All your paper thin thoughts and flailing ideas are truly meaningless unless and untill you can duplicate the book of mormon or find someone as brilliant as you that can....this is a sad attempt to simply critisize and explain away something that you and your buddys cant get your heads around. Peace

Zelph said...


Thank you for taking the time in reading and commenting on my blog. Explaining the origin of the Book of Mormon is easy. Who says Joseph Smith wrote it himself? I think it is more likely that he had some help from several people like Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris. It is also obvious that he copied themes in the Book of Mormon from various sources like Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews', the Solomon Spaulding Manuscripts, chunks and phrases from the old and new testament and many elements of 19th century Christianity that was prevalent at the time.

Also, who says he wrote it in the time span he claims he did? He was probably working on it with Oliver Cowdery for years before they began the publishing process.

Oh, and several people have duplicated the Book of Mormon. Haven't you heard of the Book of the Law of the Lord?

You can read all about it here

Again, I thank you for your comments and I hope to see more responses from you.

Anonymous said...

Yikes...most of the sources you site regarding how Joseph Smith wrote the Soloman Spaulding...View of the Hebrews...ect...have long been dismissed as utterly dismal attempts to expalain the origins of the Book of Mormon. There is absolutly no eveidence that Oliver Cowdery or Martin Harris assited Joseph Smith in simply penning the Book of Mormon over any given length of time whatsoever. This Book of the law of the Lord you site is nothing more than a wordy and flourishing catechism of mainly Old Testament Biblical topics. The Book of Mormon is much more than a point by point embelishment of the Ten Commandments and Hebraic relgious rules. As for reference material used to "write" the Book of Mormon; I would be curoius to know where Joseph Smiths vast frontier library was located. Also, maybe you could tell me if he knew some extraordinary milk maid with a penchant for poetry and/or an uncommonly eloquent village shope keeper that helped him pen the Doctrine and Covenants. Perhaps you could demonstrate how Joseph Smith "wrote" the Book of Mormon in the very next space in these comment sections of your blog...Id be curious to see how well you do at it....give us a little something in the vein of First Nephi Ch 13-14 for an example....why, it should only take you or one of your cohorts here an hour or two to finish the job. Untill then, Ill be waiting. Peace to you.

Zelph said...


Thank you for commenting again on my blog and I hope you post here on a regular basis.

Spaulding and View of the Hebrews have been dismissed by who? LDS apologists? What a surprise.

I have read view of the Hebrews and the Solomon Spaulding manuscripts. From what I have read, I am convinced that Joseph Smith did not use a single source when writing the Book of Mormon. I think he did use the 2 sources mentioned above, along with chunks in the bible, he used stories in the bible, stories from his own personal life, and probably many other sources.

So many people ask "how did he do it?" Um yeah, perhaps if he wrote it when he was 14, he would have more credibility. It wasn't until he was 21 that he started the publishing process.

“This Book of the law of the Lord you site is nothing more than a wordy and flourishing catechism of mainly Old Testament Biblical topics.”

Funny, most people would say the same thing about the Book of Mormon, with a few exceptions: The BoM is based more on the New Testament, but there is also plenty of Old Testament stories in there as well. The BoM is also much more obvious in its plagiarism, especially in the sections that are word-for-word duplications of the King James bible, complete with the same translation errors that are found in the King James bible. Blend that with 19th century Christianity themes and topics and you have the Book of Mormon.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, again, I repeat; the one and only way for you to have any credibility on this topic is to DEMONSTRATE how Joseph Smith "wrote" the Book of Mormon...not give dubious rehashed, tired and wornout personal opinions. You have a
keyboard, you have a theory, you have an audience...go for it, just two chapters of similar text as that of First Nephi CH 13-14 will do...or perhaps you would feel more comfortable with a rendition of an Alma CH 5-7. You may "blend" away whenever youre ready. You avoided the D&C question entirely. Why? As for the Book of Mormon being at all like the Law of the Lord book...I dont see the Law of the Lord book as being a record of a group of people and their commings and goings, their preachings , exhortations, good days, bad days, struggles, conflicts...does the Savior appear? ect. Ive been waiting thirty eight years for a demonstration....and I still am. sigh. peace to you.

Zelph said...

I love the "Book of Mormon Challenge". The great thing about the challenge is that I don't have to provide facts as far as how Joseph Smith did it, I only have to explain how I would do it!

Give me 7-10 years of preparation to outline the story, come up with names and place-names either found in the bible or other sources, just like Joseph Smith was capable of doing. I would get help from at least one book publisher, just like Joseph Smith easily could have. I would make an outline of the story and refer to this outline during the publishing process, just like Joseph Smith could have. I would either put the cue cards into a hat, or just have the story outline on regular paper I could look at while I was separated behind a curtain, just as Joseph looked into a hat and was at times behind a curtain.

So give me 7-10 years of preparation Just as Joseph Smith had, and I will write you your chapters. I will even do it in the space of only a few days from the time I start the final draft so you can see how “miraculous” it is.

Haven't you heard of the Book of Mormon spoof "The Book of Zelph-Another Testament to the Book of Mormon"?

Regarding your "question" on the D&C: What is your question? Your statement, and this is copied and pasted:

"maybe you could tell me if he knew some extraordinary milk maid with a penchant for poetry and/or an uncommonly eloquent village shope keeper that helped him pen the Doctrine and Covenants."

To answer your question: No, I couldn’t tell you if he knew some extraordinary milk maid with a penchant for poetry and/or an uncommonly eloquent village shope keeper that helped him pen the Doctrine and Covenants.

Now I have 2 questions for you:

1.Is the Hill Cumorah in Western New York state the same as referenced in the Book of Mormon?

2.Are the bones that Joseph and Co. ran across in Southern Illinois really that of Zelph, the white Lamanite warrier? And if they are, was Joseph Smith correct in his statement that the portion of the United States that they traveled across were the plains of the Nephite?

Anonymous said...

Nice dodge. I see you've left the
Law of the Lord argument in the dust bin; where it belongs You need 7-10 years to write 2 to 3 chapters in the vein of the ones I mentioned? That was the challenge...not write a whole 530 page book. The D&C question, to boil it down, is that for all the opinions of how the Book of Mormon was produced,
I really never see any follow up as to how the D&C came to be. After awhile joseph Smith would have needed some new rough hewn frontier study buddies to assist him in writting the D&C...maybe a biblically astute mule skinner, or the members of a very impassioned quilting bee. You tell me; whats your theory? As for your honest questions; I dont know for sure if the hill cumorah in NY state is the same one mentioned in the Book of Mormon...Ive seen opinions on both sides of the issue and I cant tell at this time. I admit, its been a long time since Ive addressed the topic, so Im a bit rusty. Next, the bones of Zelph? Its my personal opinion that the story relating to this episode has, over time, become far more exaggerated and elevated than what actually occured at the time. Now start writting. Peace.

Anonymous said...

One more thing...why during the translation process of the Bookof Mormon would you "seperate yourself behind a curtain" if your buddies, Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery, are in on the hoax? That doesn't sense. Peace

Zelph said...

Well the official church position is that it is the same hill as referenced in the Book of Mormon.

Look at this letter written by the secretary of the first presidency as recently as 1990.

The official church leaders are the only ones that say that there is only one cumorah. Every LDS apologist that I have spoken with says there are 2 cumorahs, regardless of what Joseph Smith and every other prophet and apostles has said on the subject. It would seem that LDS apologists are speaking heresy by saying there are 2 hill cumorahs.

Anyways, regarding the Book of Mormon challenge: Fine, I will write a chapter just for you.

You are right, being separated by a curtain or looking into a hat doesn’t make sense. None of it makes any sense at all, and that is the whole point. In my scenario, I would do it just to make people THINK my accomplices had nothing to do with it.

Again, I look forward to more posts and I hope to hear your official response to my yes or no question on the hill cumorah. I will give you plenty of time to research. Let me know when you have thought it over and have a definitive answer.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, write atleast 3 chapters please. Do a King Benjamin type farewell address with all the ancient trappings. Or better yet an Alma CH 30 secular humanist rant with
Frankfurt school 1930's Marxist overtones. WE all know how prevalent the attitudes and teachings expressed by Korihor were among the Putitan stock Yankee farmer yomen of the 1820 in upstate NY, do we not? From the Hill Cumorah link you provided,( btw, I cant know if that GA's secretaries letter is a forgery ) its quite clear that many former and some current church leaders have stated that the final battles in both the book of Ether and the BOM took place at what is the present day Hill Cumorah/Ramah in upstate NY. That being said, it does not disqualify the possibility that there were other hills father south or in other locations by that same name. Maybe the word Cumorah is a description of a type or size of an elevation, as in a mesa, butte, knoll or ridge. The word Cumorah may have a deeper or more poignant meaning than just a place name or location. Maybe the word Cumorah is a tittle or an appelation that is assinged to a location because of some human or other type of past occurence there. Also, remember that just because one place is named a certain name doesn't mean that another place cant be named that same exact name as well. For example, there are probally literally dozens and dozens of towns in the USA named Springfield. I personally know of more than one placed named Black Moutain. Anyway, I bet youre looking forward to the Doctrine and Covenants challenge soon to follow. Now start writing those chapters before the mob drags you out of your house. Peace

Zelph said...

Anon, O.K. Here you go. I had a lot of fun "writing" it tonight, but remember that you asked for it. It doesn't have any verses or paragraphs because Joseph Smith's first Book of Mormon didn't have those things either.

Click Here to Read the Book

Anonymous said...

You cant be serious. That was a very disappointing effort. All you managed to do was write a clumsy tongue and cheek diatribe wherein you frequently wove in your own personal scepticisms and mocked what you perceive to be weaknesses in the BOM text. If this is the method you plan to utilize to show others the strengths of your very ununique arguments I think it best that you move on to other more fulfilling and rewarding pastimes. Its very easy and probally a real ego boost for people to conveniently sit on the sidelines a deride the faith of others by attempting to blind them with rhetorical dust storms and juvenile non sequiturs. I would suggest that you use your God given gifts of spiritual curiosity and a desire to know more beyond the surface in a more mature and wise manner. Until then, Peace.

Zelph said...

I am impressed that you grasped the concepts that I was pointing out. A computer data disk in Mesoamerica is just as out of place as metal plates for writing. In fact, if you read it closely, it does a better job of solving the problem of things like the Book of Mormon limited geography, DNA and why there is no evidence of race wars, etc.

I admit that I did get carried away. That part I won't deny. However, what it demonstrates to me is just how easy it is to get caught up in your writings, just like Joseph Smith could have.

The point of the exercise was to see just how easy it is to write text that is based on a number of sources and make it your own.

My "ah hah" moment was when I realized I didn't have to think or worry about anachronisms at all. In fact, if I were to write a book similar to the Book of Mormon, it would be a requirement to write it FULL of anachronisms, just like the Book of Mormon is. At that point, it became very easy.

In fact, Hulizah referring to Porcelain, Kevlar, Television Sets, Computers and titanium is just as ridiculous to the layman as Nephi referring to Barley, horses, Steel, chariots and gold plates to any Mesoamerican archaeologist/anthropologist.

I realized that I don't even have to explain anything, that is why I have apologists. That's where you would come in and explain what the "real" meaning of these things are. You could show how some cultures kept records on disks, or just simply say that I was translating it so that people today can understand.

The point of the whole thing, which I think you glossed over was that I was demonstrating just how easy it is to simply copy and paste chunks of scriptures and other texts, as well as intertwine stories that I have heard a million times.

I have to say that I was actually legitimately surprised just how easy it was, and that was the whole point of the entire thing. The point was to see just how easy or hard it would be, but I discovered really quickly that it is so much easier than I ever imagined.

I feel like I climbed into Joseph Smith's brain during this exercise because I got a real sense of what he experienced. Of course they didn't have computers, so he couldn't simply copy and paste text. That is what his scribes were for. He did, however outline the story and could have compiled the outline of the entire book for years before. Since he had no copy and paste function, he used his scribes as his personal copy and paste function.

I wrote this in just a few hours without any preparation. I wouldn't really call it mocking, just simply pointing out how easy it is to write something like this when you allow the same flaws as the Book of Mormon. If you let someone write a similar book to the Book of Mormon the same way Joseph Smith did, you would have to allow tons of anachronisms, grammar and spelling errors, bad storylines (or chloroform in print as Mark Twain put it)and obvious, OBVIOUS, OBVIOUS plagiarism, including word-for-word copies of text.

Thank you for your challenge, it has validated my position that Joseph Smith used a combination of several sources when writing the Book of Mormon and how he could have easily drawn up an outline to his story.

Let me know when you have your definitive answer for me on whether or not you think the Hill Cumorah in upstate, NY is the same physical location as mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Just a simple yes or no is fine.