Author House, 2018, 108 pp
Reviewed by Richard Packham
This book is a summary of the author's study of existing and well-known attempts by Mormon scholars to locate the places where the events narrated in the Book of Mormon took place. It contains nothing much new in the way of fresh insights or new research. It also starts from the premise that the Book of Mormon is an actual history of ancient America. Now a Mormon "scripture", the Book of Mormon was translated from a hitherto and still unknown language as dictated by God, from an ancient book of golden plates delivered to Joseph Smith in the 1820s by an angel, and which no longer exist, having been taken back by the angel when the "translation" was completed. Thus it is similar to the attempts of the Baker Street Irregulars to find the actual places where Sherlock Holmes did his detective work, or suggestions that if we could locate the places where events in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy took place, we could then believe the trilogy was actual history.
In other words, this book will be of no value to someone who does not already accept the Book of Mormon as authentic history.
The author is biased by this premise in the selection of materials and arguments. He presents only evidence in favor of the "Mesoamerican/Tehuantepec" hypothesis, and fails to deal with the many critics of that hypothesis, such as the extensive critiques by Earl M. Wunderli in the journal Dialogue (vol 35, no 3, p 161ff, available online) or by Deanne Matheny in the essay collection New Approaches To The Book of Mormon (Signature Books), to mention only a few.
Some examples: The author discounts statements by Mormon leaders (who are supposedly "prophets" inspired of God) that do not support the Mesoamerican theory, since they were "not knowledgeable" about history and archaeology and geography (as knowledgeable as our author). Yet he does not hesitate to cite them as authorities, quoting statements from the dedicatory prayers at a Mormon temple dedication, when those prayers support his hypothesis.
Perhaps the most outrageous example of bias is the author's extensive criticism of an opposing theory, the "heartland" theory, propounded most extensively by Mormon Rod Meldrum. Meldrum places Book of Mormon events in the area south of the Great Lakes, and cites the Adena and Hopewell cultures as likely Book of Mormon peoples. Guymon argues that those cultures do not correspond to the cultural picture in the Book of Mormon. Well, neither does the Mayan or pre-classical Mayan culture resemble the culture described in the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon describes an agricultural society based on wheat and barley, cattle, asses, "flocks and herds," with a monetary system utilizing pieces of gold and silver, and "steel swords" as the principal weapon of war. None of this is found in ancient Mesoamerica. Furthermore, important aspects of Mayan culture are not even hinted at in the Book of Mormon: jade and obsidian as precious items, jaguar worship, the highly developed calendar system unlike anything in the old world, languages with no relationship to near eastern languages.
Another problem not addressed: according to the Book of Mormon, the Nephites (whom Guymon identifies with the pre-classical Mayans) were completely exterminated in a genocidal war. But the Mayans were never exterminated, and still live in their original homeland.
A special section on the horse (which is prominent in the Book of Mormon, but absent in ancient Mesoamerica) cites the horse bones found in the LaBrea tar pits in California. To our author, these bones confirm the Book of Mormon's reports of horses, even though: 1) the bones are dated at 11,000 BCE, long before the period of the Nephites; 2) the LaBrea exhibit states that these early American horses soon were extinct; 3) California is nowhere near Mesoamerica. Nevertheless, for our author, the bones and the reconstruction resemble a horse that he owns personally. QED.
More problems and more false claims could be cited, but this is enough. The book is only of value to those who are already convinced.
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