I published 2 episodes with David Rosenvall this week. He’s the co-author of a relatively new geography theory for the Book of Mormon. I asked him how he came up with the theory and was surprised to learn that he put together scriptures.lds.org!
When I returned home from my mission in 1987, my father at the time was showing me something called hypertext. It was a new technology on our little Macintosh computer. He showed how he had the text of the scriptures, put it in and he was linking verses to footnotes. At the time, boy, that was kind of interesting and neat way of reading the scriptures. The scriptures at that time really weren’t in a hypertext format. Over the next 10 years or so, he and I, kind of as more of a personal project interest, scanned all the scriptures in using OCR, linked up all the footnotes and all the verses and things like that.
GT: By the way, OCR is, for those who aren’t computer experts?
David: Oh, Optical Character Recognition. You scan a page and it will figure out the letters. It saves a lot of typing is what that does. So we have an electronic version of the scriptures, probably the first one. In fact I know it was the first one. The church didn’t even have one. It had the footnotes and everything. It was about the year 2000, we had been maintaining this, that we donated all of this text, all linked up in a format that the internet could use. In 2000 that became https://scriptures.lds.org .
For about 10 years we maintained that for the church and did about 22 languages for them. We got very intimate with the scriptures. We got a really great understanding of them, just the linking and how they all went together. It was in about 2008, out of the blue my father called me one evening. My father, he is a geographer. He was a professor at the University of Calgary for 40 years, was the vice-president there. He taught geography, studied at the University of California at Berkeley.
Up until that point, he had never even brought up Book of Mormon geography with me or anyone in our family. It just wasn’t a concern for us; interesting but not a concern. In 2008 he phoned me up and said, “David, where do you think the Book of Mormon took place?”
I told him quickly, “Baja California.”
I asked him to compare his theory with John L. Sorenson’s Mesoamerican theory of the Book of Mormon in part 2.
David: One of the things that I think the Mesoamerican models do is they focus very much on the human geography, and I think they’ve done a really good job at identifying things in Mesoamerica that can be tied back to the Book of Mormon culturally: language perhaps, structures, some of those types of things. Where they get in trouble is where they try to place the physical geography on top of that, things start turning sideways, distances and so forth, you get all sideways.
GT: Well let’s talk about that for a second.
David: You bet.
GT: To me that’s one of the biggest problems. When you think of North and South America, well north and south makes a lot of sense. But when you get to Mesoamerica, the narrow neck of land is actually situated east and west. It’s not north and south.
David: Yeah, so the orientation is a problem. One thing we do in the text is we assume it was given to us by the gift and power of God. We don’t need to retranslate it. If it says east, it’s east. If it’s west, it’s west. If the swords rusted, they’re made of steel. Animals are the animals stated and so forth.
When you get into some of the other geography, you’re having to rotate things and stretch distances. That’s ok; let them work that out. But our model is, what does the text say? And apply it using the science we know today. We find a location that can fit. That’s the basis. That’s it. Read the text and use science to try to review it.
What do you think? Is this more plausible than the Central American model? Did you know who did scriptures.lds.org?