What the Church Statement about Book of Mormon Geography Means

The Church recently released a statement about Book of Mormon Geography. From it we learn two important things:

(1) The fact that “the Church takes no position on the geography of the Book of Mormon” suggests that no geography statements by Joseph Smith or any other leader has been strong or certain enough to be considered revelatory or doctrine. Nothing they’ve said has caused the Church to make geographical statements official doctrine. Even the location of the Hill Cumorah is uncertain. The Church recently released a statement how Joseph Smith actually never clarified where the real “Hill Cumorah” was. Some scholars have shown that the New York hill was only titled “Cumorah” because of tradition.

Statements by early leaders about geography are considered opinions: “leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have expressed numerous opinions about the specific locations of the events discussed in the book.”

(2) Joseph Smith had a hemispheric view of the Book of Mormon. Meaning to him, it happened all over the Americas: “The Prophet Joseph Smith himself accepted what he felt was evidence of Book of Mormon civilizations in both North America and Central America.” This was a common assumption in the early Church, which is why there are statements all over the map. It wasn’t until the 1900’s that we began to realize that the Book of Mormon describes a much smaller area, and that the entire Western Hemisphere is impossibly too big to be the Book of Mormon lands. This is why leaders and scholars have been looking at small models, and hence why there’s been debate. But in the early years of the Church, there was not really any debate because of this hemispheric view that everyone seemed to agree upon.

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