One of the big differences between the Heartland & Mesoamerican Theories of the Book of Mormon deals with volcanoes. During the destruction found in 3rd Nephi, it mentions earthquakes and “mists of darkness.” Meso proponents believe this is a reference to volcanoes, and there are several candidates in Mesoamerica. These volcanoes are not found in the Heartland, and Heartlanders dismiss this possibility. Jerry Grover has a background in geology and has written a book called “Geology of the Book of Mormon.” He’s the first to make an in-depth look at the Book of Mormon from a geological point of view. Check out our conversation…
Earthquake & Volcano Science for Book of Mormon
Jerry 11:33 I thought, geology is a parameter has never been looked at. I don’t care who’s model it is. They need to look at that and make sure that their model is consistent with what the Book of Mormon says geologically. And so that was the attempt of the book. Number one, it was to establish that all of the things described in the Book of Mormon, that have geological [parameters] can be explained geologically. So that was a part of the attempt of the book to say, okay, everything in 3rd Nephi can be explained by some geological event, whether it’s the vapor, mist of darkness, tumultuous noises, groanings of the earth, renderings of the rock, quaking, all those things. So, I went through that to say, okay, yes, all of these things are consistent, and can be explained geologically.
Jerry 12:28 Then it was like, okay, now that you have that, how do you lay [out] your model? You have to have potential for seismic activity in the right places. Right? It says the land northward had the bulk of the destruction. So, again, some models don’t really subscribe to a volcano. They try to come up with some other explanations, but whatever it is, you have to show that you at least have laid down the cities [in the right locations. The cities] you’ve laid down, the ones that were destroyed show how they were destroyed. Right?
GT 13:05 During third Nephi, when the great destruction [happened.]
Jerry 13:08 Yeah, and so like, if you have Ammonihah, and not all of them are 3rd Nephi, meaning you have a couple prison events where the prison shook.
GT 13:13 Oh, yeah, like Alma.
Jerry 13:15 Right. And so there was a great sound, which is actually explained. There’s actually what’s called a super shear earthquake that occurs in strike-slip faults, that are typically granitic underlying rock. So if you’ve got a location as Ammonihah, you’re going to have to show that Ammonihah is actually in a seismically active zone, probably strike-slip, and show that there’s probably some sort of granitic rock somewhere at depth or something that would generate this [sound.] Because it’s super sure earthquake creates a sonic boom. So that’s the great sound, because it talks about a great sound that surprised them all. And so that’s one.
Jerry 13:53 Then you have the other prison event. This is in the Land of Nephi, where it talks about shaking, and the cloud came down. There was shaking, clouds. So that’s looking at a volcanic eruption earthquake. So you’re going have to show proximity to a volcano, in that location near your valley of your land of Nephi. Right. So those are a couple outside that third Nephi event that are geologic events. And so the point was to say, Okay, any people working on a model will have to account for the geology. Now, they can maybe interpret something a little differently than me. That’s fine. But you at least have to account for this parameter. You can’t just say, “Oh, there’s a fault somewhere in our model.” You’ve got to show that it’s a large enough fault.
GT 14:49 So you’re focused mostly on earthquake activities. Is that fair to say?
Jerry 14:55 Well, I looked at some different things. So I also looked at storms. Right? I looked at some meteorological events, because that’s one of the questions. Could it be a hurricane? Right? When it talks about the great storm, is it talking about just a volcanic eruption that could be described as a great storm anciently? And so I looked at said, Okay. Some of these answered questions for other models, but I said the Sorenson model is the most developed. Right? He has maps. He’s got cities laid out. Most of the models are…
GT 15:30 Roughly here, roughly there.
Jerry 15:31 Right. Anytime they try to zoom in, it starts having problems. Right? And that’s why anybody can propose a model. But actually, you have to actually lay it in on the ground specifically, have archaeological sites match up, have cultures match up. This is just saying, “Listen, your geology is goIng to match up as well. So I took the Sorenson model and laid it in. But there were some other questions I wanted to answer. First of all, some people said, well, it’s just a volcano. Then you have the volcanic earthquakes. And so I looked at it.
Why Meso is Better Geology Fit than Other Models
Jerry 1:04:39 Well, I’d say the Sorenson model actually worked very well. He had the city of Bountiful where he had it. It was an area that that that was stable. It didn’t have liquefaction where he had it and right across the river, there was a horrible liquefaction zone. So you’re like, okay, because they went to bat because it wasn’t destroyed, but they can look around and see the destruction totally makes total sense from the temple bountiful they can just look across a river and where there was a high area of look, I liquefaction, everything got wiped out. So those kinds of things that it also you look and say, yeah, the model, but he’s laid out fits pretty well is that the one is not the only parameter. But yeah, it works.
We then moved over the the start that appeared in the Book of Mormon. How can a night of no darkness be explained?
Jerry 01:16 My artuicle has covered. Two Days of Brightness and the Stars of Bethlehem. So I look at all of the events at the time of Christ. And there’s another fellow published who kind of exchanged ideas who has it partially similar, but essentially, what you’re looking at for the night of brightness is what I call it is, again, I just lay out the parameters. What what does the Book of Mormon say? Right. Okay, so what are the parameters of the event? There were lights. It talks about signs and wonders, not just the brightness. It had to occur for at least sundown to the next morning. So it had a period of time that had to lapse. And then the other thing is, well, they didn’t see it in Israel. Right?
GT 02:10vvYeah, it didn’t go. It wasn’t light in Israel.
Jerry 02:11 Chinese didn’t document it, who document astronomy. So it’s actually got to be more of a local layer of duration and a local event. And really, I actually looked at said, okay Is it a supernova? Could that be the star or light? No, because supernovas lasts too long, and they are observable by all. So basically there’s not a lot of things that survive.
Now I know some of you are going to say the Book of Mormon is fiction, but for the sake of this essay, please consider these aspects. Assuming the book is true, what do you think of Jerry’s explanation?
Graham Hancock missed his calling…
The thing about the Star of Bethlehem is, it would have to somehow hover over or point to Bethlehem, and not just move along with the rest of the sky.
“Assuming the book is true, how would you cover this topic outside of Utah?” Rick, my assumption would be that you try to get evidence that can withstand the scientific method into a paper that makes its way into a peer-reviewed journal of some sort. In doing so, be sure to team with a non-Mormon expert in (I’m guessing) geology. If you can make it past that hurdle, try to get some mention of it on some layman website that likes to cover scientific issues in surface level depth (Wired or some such) then let Google News, Facebook, and Twitter do their thing and spread it to the digital four winds. Rinse and repeat with whatever other significant scientifically-verifiable evidence you have in this scenario that supports the historicity of the Book of Mormon (DNA evidence of Semitic peoples in the Americas or evidence of domesticated horses between 600 BC and AD 1491 for example). Or unmistakably Pre-Columbiam Christian iconography. Or evidence of Pre-Columbian iron and steel production.
To me, the Book of Mormon is inspirational writing. For me this sort of historicity evaluation is irrelevant. But I hope it works out for you.