Critics of the Book of Mormon say the geography is so vague that it could take place anywhere, or no where.  Jonathan Neville weighs in on that issue,and tells more about the Heartland Theory of Book of Mormon.

GT:  It’s funny that you mentioned that because I know there are critics of the Book of Mormon that use that to throw all of them. “The Book of Mormon is so vague, it could be anywhere and so, therefore, it’s nowhere.”

Jonathan:  That’s right.

GT:  How do you respond to that?

Jonathan:  I respond to that, that if you only take the Book of Mormon, you’re right, it could be anywhere. It could even be fictional, If you’re only looking at the Book of Mormon. That’s why it’s so critical to know what Joseph and Oliver taught, because they both said it was in America, let’s say, the Western Hemisphere. But at least it was in this part of the world and they said Cumorah is in New York. They couldn’t have made it any clearer by saying it was a fact. So, that’s why, to me, it’s either Cumorah or bust. If Cumorah is not in New York, then there’s no reason to think it happened anywhere, seriously. I know there’s a lot of members of the Church and more and more of them now, who think it’s fiction.

GT:  See, and the thing that comes to my mind is what Sorenson said. I’m trying to remember which book that was. But I remember reading it, where Sorenson basically says that Joseph said, “Well, yeah, Lehi landed in Chile or Peru, Chile, and then he embraced the Yucatan stuff.”  Sorenson basically says two things. One, Joseph embraced a hemispheric model, which I know you disagree with. But, number two, Joseph didn’t really know. He was only given the gold plates and God didn’t reveal everything. So, Joseph embraced things like Yucatan and things, but he really didn’t know. So, according to Sorenson, he’s reading the text as carefully as he can read it. It’s an hourglass shape and all that.

Jonathan:  I know, well, it’s not just Sorenson. John Clark did a presentation.  They had a Joseph Smith Bicentennial thing at the Library of Congress, I think it was 2005. They had a whole presentation on it. John Clark did a paper where he said that Joseph Smith not knowing anything about the geography is actually evidence that it was divine, that he didn’t compose it. Because, all he did was relate what he read off the stone. That’s a whole ‘nother topic, but, that he didn’t know anything about the Book of Mormon. So, that proves he didn’t write it. That’s his argument.

I thought to myself, “Okay, if you want to go that way, that’s an argument.” People make arguments. But it’s laughable to me, because how could he have been any more explicit? I mean, his mother told us, and she said, and she quoted him, even in one case. But his mother said that the very first night Moroni I showed up, he told Joseph Smith, this record was in the hill of Cumorah, three miles from your house. That’s the first time Joseph ever heard the word.  That was the first Nephite word he ever heard, other than Moroni, I guess?

GT:  I know Sorenson says Joseph never called it Cumorah.

Jonathan:  I know. I know, they say that.

GT:  It just said it was a hill.

Jonathan:  I know, and that’s what the historians down here at the Church History Department are saying, too. So, I’m saying, “Well, if you look in the Saints book, they totally de-correlated Cumorah.”

Do you agree that Saints has de-correlated Cumorah?

The Book of Mormon ends with a great battle with millions killed near a hill called Cumorah. Yet no bones were found near the Hill Cumorah.  How does Jonathan Neville reconcile this? He’ll describes more of the Heartland Theory of Book of Mormon.

Jonathan:  So, when it comes to the Hill Cumorah in New York, it’s really fascinating, because I think that was the key to interpreting the text. When you go back and look carefully–first of all people say there are millions of people killed, there are millions of Jaredites killed there. That’s not what the book says at all. If you look at the book, Coriantumr talks about 2 million of his people killed. That was years before the final battle, at Cumorah.  He, also, it’s hard to tell from the text, what timeframe he is referring to. I did an analysis if he was only talking about in his own lifetime, or over the history of the Jaredites. I can’t tell which it was.  Even if it was over his lifetime, 2 million people, that worked out to something like 20 or 30,000 a year, which, to me is not that plausible, but much more plausible than 2 million. But, if you look at what Ether wrote about the Jaredite battle, he tells us how many people died on the last three days of that week. It was one week of battle, and it was like half, half, half. So, I extrapolated backwards, and it was less than 10,000 people in the whole Jaredite battle, which makes sense.

Jonathan:  Oliver Cowdery in Letter VII said there were thousands of bodies from the Jaredites, which means less than 10,000, and that’s what the Book of Mormon text says. So, if you realize that the Jaredites were less than 10,000, in their final battle, and also, if you remember that Moroni said he was only talking about the people in this north country. He wasn’t talking about the entire hemisphere, even about all the Americas or even anywhere outside of this north country where he was living when he wrote this, around New York. There were lots of other Jaredite peoples. He was only talking about the ones in Ether’s genealogy that were living in Northern New York that were extinguished. It was less than 10,000.

Jonathan:  So, then you get to the Battle of the Nephites and Jaredites. What does Mormon and Moroni say? Well, Mormon, when he gets to the top of the hill. He said, “We beheld my 10,000 and we beheld Moroni’s 10,000.” So, then you ask yourself is 10,000 a number or a military unit? It’s certainly not a number, because otherwise he would have to say, 9,998 of mine, and 10,003 of Moroni’s. It wasn’t exactly 10,000. Ten thousand is a common military unit all around the world for people. In fact, even in this book, I mentioned the Anabasis, the Greek book everybody studies when they study Greek. By the end of the war, they had less than 6,000 people, but they still called them the 10,000. Because it was like a battalion is what we would say today. So, Mormon would say, “I saw my battalion, and Moroni’s battalion” tells us nothing about how many people were actually there.

GT: So, you don’t trust those numbers are literal.

Jonathan:  Oh, I don’t think they’re literal at all. I don’t think they could possibly be literal. Because how would you even know if there was exactly 10,000 and not 9,995? In a battle, you’d have no way of knowing. So, it was a military unit. Then, in English, this is tricky.

Do you agree with Jonathan’s line of reasoning?

The biggest problem with the Book of Mormon deals with DNA and archaeology that doesn’t seem to match Native Americas.  How does Jonathan Neville, an expert on the Heartland Theory, deal with the Mormon DNA problem?

GT:  Of course, there are critics: Thomas Murphy, Simon Sotherton, even Ugo Perego. I wouldn’t call him a critic, but let’s talk about DNA. Now, I know Rod [Meldrum] has what I would view as a very unscientific way to handle that. It was interesting to read what you said. In a lot of ways you, I would say, kind of embrace the limited geography theory, the Meso theory, as far as the Nephite numbers were small. There were lots of Native Americans here before, so you’re just not going to find traces of DNA. I will say that Thomas recently was on Mormon Book Reviews with Steve Pynakker. One of the things that he said, which really surprised me, he kind of embraced Heartland in the fact that this is the environment Joseph grew up in. He saw these mound builder myths, and so the Book of Mormon is an embellishment, I guess, from Thomas’s point of view, of these mound builder myths. So, he does agree with you that Joseph did view the Hopewell people as the Book of Mormon peoples. The criticism is, where’s the Cohen DNA? It’s not there.

Jonathan:  Yeah.

GT:  And I also love to point out the Lemba tribe in Africa. For those who are not familiar, there’s a black African tribe in South Africa that claimed they were descendants of Israel. They’re black people. They did a DNA test, and, sure enough, they have Cohen DNA. They have Israelite DNA. So, that tends to cause a problem with Book of Mormon proponents. I don’t care whether you’re Heartland, Meso, Baja. No matter what, any theory that you propose in America, it’s Asian DNA. It’s not Israelite DNA. So, how do you respond to that?

Jonathan:  Okay, I respond to that two ways.  First, Joseph, in the Wentworth letter, he said it was inhabited, the Americas or America, I think he said, was inhabited by two civilizations: the Jaredites and the Lehites, let’s say, which would include the people of Mulek. The way I understand the Jaredites, is they came over. I believe they crossed the Pacific after traversing Asia. It was Jared and his brother and their friends. It didn’t say where their friends came from. But presumably, they were friendly enough to pick up some Asians with them. So, they crossed over. I think they landed up in the British Columbia area. There’s a native tribe up there that that’s their tradition, that their ancestors came on tight ships, and they had glowing pearls inside. That was just a Native American tradition, origin story. And that fits, I think it makes sense. So, then they landed here, and it said they spread out everywhere. When they did their census, a few years later, they only had Jared and his brother. They didn’t talk about all their friends. So, I infer from that that the friends took off even farther away.

Jonathan:  So, Jared, and his brother hung out still, presumably, not too far from where they landed, let’s say Seattle area, somewhere up in there. Then, based on Ether’s genealogy, he had 33 plus generations of people, by the time he got to New York, where he was. So, they crossed over the Great Lakes, spread out throughout the United States, all the way down, Central and South America. And I’ve seen studies. There’s one published paper that says the Native Americans traveled to British Columbia, and then north towards Alaska, instead of coming over the Bering Strait, which would imply a waterway to get here like the Jaredites did. There’s lots of ambiguity about exactly whether they cross the Bering Strait or not. So, my interpretation of it is the Jaredites had Asian DNA they brought over during their travels, and they spread throughout the Americas. There could have been other people from Asia, as well. But the Jaredite migration satisfies the Asian to me. And that’s because the only Jaredites that the Book of Ether talks about were his ancestors in New York.

Jonathan:  So, I have no problem with Asian DNA. I think it’s consistent with the Book of Mormon. As far as Lehi and Mulek, we don’t know their ancestry as Ugo has pointed out. We know they came from the area of Jerusalem. Whether they had the X2 haplotype or not, that’s the big controversy is, when did the X2 haplotype break off? Because anybody can look on Wikipedia, or the journals behind it, and see that there’s a concentration around Israel and a concentration in the northeastern United States. I mean, that’s just a fact. Even Ugo acknowledges that. He’s just saying…

GT:  Thomas says it’s also in Africa.

Jonathan:  Well, yeah, but, of course, people migrated around. But the concentrations of it that were the native peoples that they’ve done the surveys of, the highest concentration is around Israel and the Northeastern United States.  Actually, it should be backwards you’re your perspective.

Jonathan:  So the entire issue, as I understand it, and I’m not a DNA expert, but I read Ugo’s papers. I’ve talked to Ugo about this. I’ve read Rod’s book, and I understand that the primary difference of opinion between them is when this X2 broke off into this smaller haplotype, X-2A, B, or whatever. Ugo, of course, says it happened long before Lehi.

GT:  Ten thousand years ago.

Jonathan:  Yeah, but he also says that the first Americans, the first people came to America around 70,000 years ago, something like that.

GT:  Right.

Jonathan:  So, basically, the Darwinian theory of evolution is what he teaches. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. All I can go by is what science tells us. But I’ve seen enough science to know that it’s always subject to change. So, what Ugo says today, he may not say two years from now, because there’s additional discoveries coming out.

What do you think of Jonathan’s explanation?