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We all know a lot of things that aren't so. This may because of the way we receive knowledge from others. An individual bit of knowledge might have been garbled in its path to us, it may have always been nonsense, it might have been state of the art understanding that has since been supplanted, or it might be a decent approximation of reality. This book is, I believe, quite important because it is part of a serious effort to let the Book of Mormon speak for itself rather than imposing on it a mix of interpretations that come from certain hopes and guesses about what the Book of Mormon was actually saying without studying it thoroughly.
Sorenson first builds a map based upon the information provided in the book. This does away with the notion of the so-called "continental" view of the range of the Book of Mormon. He then shows us the very complex cultures in Meso-America and how things seem to have been in the centuries the Book of Mormon took place. While I have my own views and interpretations, I admire Sorenson for sticking to what the Book actually says and what the archaeological and anthropological evidence actually shows us. He doesn't try to get to the point of fitting it together and claiming that this is actually that or anything of the sort. That is a trap too many have fallen into over the years and it actually blinds more than it enlightens.
He compares what the Book of Mormon people say about their lives, the culture and its wars with the way the people of that region lived, adapted, and fought. Sorenson shows us how the rising population and the expansion of the Mayan kingdoms put pressure on the large mix of smaller tribes that "filled in the gaps".Read more ›
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This book really prompted me to think about and reconceptualize many of the assumptions I held about Book of Mormon geography and study. It was inspiring to develop a deeper understanding of the people in the Book of Mormon, and answered many questions. It's well researched and doesn't pretend to be decisive in its conclusions. Definitely the most authoritive book on the subject of Book of Mormon geography and a must read for all interested in the subject.
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First of all, let me say that I am sorely disappointed that this volume has not been peer-reviewed. Potential readers would be much better off reading the assessment of Sorenson's peers rather than the musings of anonymous internet reviewers. Ah, but therein lies the rub. As much as Sorenson conveys an academic tone, this book is not a product of "mainstream" academia. Take that for what you will--some people will undoubtedly see that as a positive, while others will see it as a negative.
In order to give a fair review, I need to address three potential audiences. Decide which one you are a part of and skip to that paragraph: Mormon apologists, casual readers, and students/academics.
For the Mormon apologist, this book is absolutely indispensable. While Sorenson goes out of his way to assure the reader that he is not "proving" anything, he has compiled a great deal of supporting evidence and data for Mormons who wish to set the BoM in Ancient America. Here in this book is where you will find the most convincing and helpful theories about how to "fit" the narratives of the BoM to archaeological and historical reality. If you are a Mormon and are interested in apologetics, buy it and consider it a valuable amalgamation of ammunition.
For the casual reader, the book will still prove to be valuable. Sorenson tries to shift the burden of proof to those claiming that the BoM is not historically accurate, and any reasonable person who holds those views should accept the challenge. For those wishing to imagine how BoM events could have plausibly happened in an Ancient American context, this book will not disappoint. It is, to use a trite phrase, "a fun read".
For the scholar, however, Sorenson's book is of limited value.Read more ›
John L. Sorenson (born 1924) is emeritus professor of anthropology at Brigham Young University, and has written books such as "Mormon's Map," "Images of Ancient America: Visualizing Book of Mormon Life," and "Pre-Columbian Contact With the Americas Across the Oceans: An Annotated Bibliography."
He wrote in the Preface to this 1985 book, "By 1974 I had worked on the relation of the Book of Mormon to Mesoamerican geography and cultural data for twenty-five years but had been reluctant to impose my views on the public or my colleagues... (the) managing editor of the Ensign... invited me to prepare a series of articles for the Church magazine... It seemed clear that publication as a book would meet a widespread need..."
Here are some quotations from the book:
"Until recently... we had neglected to pin down the location of a single city (of the Book of Mormon), to identify confidently even one route ... or to sketch a believable picture of any segment of the life they lived in their American promised land." (Pg. xvii) "...ultimate objectivity is all but impossible... My subjective views about the Book of Mormon and the culture area with which I shall compare it of course influenced what I have written here." (Pg. xix) "After so many years of studying this topic am I satisfied with the results? No. Many questions remain..." (Pg. xx) "...it certainly wouldn't be surprising if the Prophet had once held this view (that Lehi landed in Chile), since other early Church members seem to have believed it." (Pg. 2) "What are we told about the narrow neck of land itself? First, it had to be wide enough that Limhi's explorers could pass through it without even realizing that it was an isthmus...Read more ›
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