Monday, September 21, 2015

A Proposed Anthology/Handbook on Mesoamerica and the Book of Mormon

Central Plaza of Palenque
I recently realized that at present, there is no anthology (collection of papers) or “handbook” that focuses completely or even mostly focuses on the Book of Mormon in Mesoamerica. Most anthologies on the Book of Mormon, have largely focused on the Old World connections. Take, for example, Echoes and Evidences of the Book of Mormon, which consists of contributions from scholars with training in the ancient Near East largely talking about “hits” from the ancient Near Eastern geography, archaeology, culture, and linguistics. There is one paper by John L. Sorenson who is tackling the ancient American setting all by himself and having to provide a full summary of such hits in one paper.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

“Facts are Stubborn Things”: The Mesoamerican Reawakening

A classic image of Captain Moroni,
titled "Come Forth," by Walter Rane
Jonathan Neville has a tendency to write very poor intellectual history that tends to be more speculative than anything else. His post yesterday (September 14, 2015) about the “death spiral” that the Mesoamerican theory is currently going down is a classic case in point. “Every week now,” Neville declares, “we have more evidence that the Mesoamerican theory of Book of Mormon geography is in a death spiral.” While much could be said about this post, I am going to just focus on one point in his trajectory that literally made me laugh out loud.
Eighth, the Mesoamerican theory has been gradually eased out of FARMS, the Maxwell Institute, and even BYU. Church curriculum has gradually de-emphasized the Mesoamerican setting.
The timing for such a statement could not have been worse. Just today, the Neal A. Maxwell Institute officially released the latest issue of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies. All one needs to do is to look at the Table of Contents (which has been publicly available since September 9) to see why this makes Neville’s statement so humorous. Notice the title of the article by Kerry Hull: “War Banners: A Mesoamerican Context for the Title of Liberty.” Joseph Spencer, an associate editor of the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, introduces the piece as follows:
Kerry Hull follows Berkey with “War Banners,” a study of Captain Moroni’s title of liberty in light of Mesoamerican practices. Mobilizing a wealth of information—linguistic, literary, cultural, and historical—Hull argues that the story of the title of liberty fits comfortably into an ancient Mesoamerican setting. He presents ample illustrations from a variety of ancient American cultures to show the widespread use of banners in war practices. By bringing together such resources, Hull shows that the Mesoamerican context helps to clarify and to illuminate the narrative of the Book of Mormon. Hull’s work is representative of a new generation of scholars of Mesoamerica who have turned their attention to the Book of Mormon using more recent scholarship to show how rich and rewarding it can be to read Nephite scripture in light of ancient American archaeology.
Doesn’t really sound like an “easing out” of Mesoamerican studies, now does it?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Book of Mormon Geography in Neville-Nevilleland

Jonathan Neville is an advocate of the Book of Mormon Heartland model who has been generating an endless array of polemical posts against Mesoamericanists, including me, on 2 different blogs. Like other Heartlanders, he has adopted an unfortunate mode of discourse which blames Mesomaricanists for damaging faith and even misleading the Church. Also like most Heartlanders, he has never produced a detailed study of Book of Mormon geography. Despite that, he has confidently asserted,
It turns out that if you put Cumorah in New York and Zarahemla in Iowa, the geographical references in the text fit nicely. The archaeology, anthropology, and geology also match up with the seas, the narrow strip of wilderness, going up and down, the narrow neck, etc..