OK guys, so in this episode, we’re going to tackle another Book of Mormon conspiracy theory. I really like these episodes because it just shows to what lengths people will go to try to discredit the Book of Mormon. But here’s the gist of the theory: The Book of Mormon contains 86 geographic names. Some people believe Joseph Smith simply made some of these places up based on actual geographic locations he was surrounded by. Let’s see if there’s any clout to that claim.
In the most popular anti-Latter-day Saint literature right now, only 20 locations, out of 86, are under the microscope for being taken from Joseph’s surroundings. We’re going to take a look at them a few at a time.
The Book of Mormon locations Alma, Ani-Anti, Boaz, Shilom, Land of Noah, Sidom, and Jerusalem all supposedly match up with the following locations: Alma West Virginia, or Ohio, or New York. Antioch, Ohio. Boaz, West Virginia. Shiloh, Pennsylvania. Noah Lakes, Ohio. Sodom, Ohio. And Jerusalem, Ohio.
To some people that might seem pretty concerning at face value. Except, none of these places existed in 1830. There was one house in Jerusalem, Ohio, in 1830, and really, even if Joseph was a fraud, wouldn’t the Bible be a more logical explanation for where he got ‘Jerusalem?’ In fact, Sidom, Noah, Shilom, Jerusalem, and Boaz all have matches or near-matches in the Bible. Coincidentally they’re all words found in the Old Testament, which is the portion of the Bible that Book of Mormon characters would have had access to.
Here’s our next batch: The Waters of Ripliancum, Jacobugath, Ramah, Shurr, Kishkumen, and Manti all must correspond with Ripple Lake, Ontario. Jacobsburg, Ohio. Rama, Ontario. Sherbrooke, Quebec. Kishkiminetas, Pennsylvania, and Mantua, Ohio.
Technically, it’s possible Joseph could have known about these places. Is it likely? That’s up to you. Ripple Lake is one of like a thousand small lakes located over 300 miles from Joseph at the time. Jacobugath and Ramah have Bible roots. Sherbrooke got its name in 1818 and was a tiny community over 400 miles from Joseph. Kishkiminetas is over 300 miles from Joseph, wasn’t officially established until 1876, but does show up in a post office guide from 1825. Mantua is almost 300 miles away, wasn’t established until 1898, but does show up in an 1823 post office guide. Why Joseph is apparently really into post office guides, I don’t know.
You’re probably starting to get the picture here, but here’s our last batch: Jordan, Lehi, Helam, Antum, Morianton, Land of Onidah and Onidah Hill must come from Jordan, New York. Lehigh, Pennsylvania. Hellam Pennsylvania. Antrim, Pennsylvania. Moraviantown, Ontario. Oneida County and (a village called) Oneida Castle, New York.
These are the strongest parallels in the whole batch. But again, Jordan, Lehi, and Helam are in the Bible. Moraviantown is an Indian reservation in Canada almost 300 miles away from Joseph. You can make up your minds about the others. But out of the 86 geographic names in The Book of Mormon … this is apparently the best theory critics have got. But wait, there’s more!
In addition to these 20, there’s also the theory that Joseph got the name Cumorah from the Comoros Islands off the coast of Mozambique over 8000 miles away. To spice things up, critics are quick to point out that there’s a city in this island country called Moroni.
But critics have struggled to piece together how Joseph would have known about Moroni, considering the fact that in Joseph’s time Moroni was so small that nobody has yet found a map or gazette contemporary to Joseph that goes to the trouble of identifying it. But could it possibly just be coincidence that a name as unique as Moroni exists outside the Book of Mormon? Well, considering the fact that some of the other locations in this country are Domoni, Chomoni, Fomboni, and Pomoni, I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch.
Now, as I was researching this topic, I thought I’d do a little 5-minute experiment, for the sake of science. First, I made up a few names that I thought sounded like something you might find in The Book of Mormon: Morah, Stelancum, Shumim, Zenihah, and I threw the Bible name ‘David’ in there just for kicks and giggles.
Then, I wondered if I could find actual locations that were matches or near-matches to my made-up names. Since Joseph was headquartered in New York during the Book of Mormon translation, I picked Kentucky as my headquarters. Lo and behold, I found matches or near-matches for three out of the five names in Kentucky.
COINCIDENCE?! Well… yes. Absolutely. I’ve never heard of any of those places. The point is, I think this whole argument is devoid of any real credibility. In fact, even the author of the anti-Latter-day Saint literature in which this argument appears recognized years ago how weak this argument is, and considered just editing it out completely. I think that says something. If you have more questions about this topic, check out our website and the links in the description. A lot of this information comes from a presentation by Scott Gordon from FairMormon so shout-out to him. And have a great day.
- Scott Gordon’s presentation: https://bit.ly/348HrA4
- What is the Vernal Holley map?: https://bit.ly/2MHuiIH