Here is a great article yesterday that significantly changed my views of Book of Mormon geography. FARMS: Searching for Book of Mormon Lands in Middle America – John E. Clark http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=16&num=2&id=545
I thought it might be fun to summarize my choices in terms of picking a foremost expert model for The Book of Mormon map.
I take my main choices from those models that accept Central America as the setting for The Book of Mormon. This is the generally accepted area by most serious scholars on the issue. I became convinced of Mesoamerica as the setting when I read Joseph Allen’s book.
The harder choice becomes pin-pointing exact cities, rivers, or at least a more specific area than that. The article linked above spends a good deal of analysis on the “narrow neck of land” mentioned in The Book of Mormon. To me, it is a fascinating discussion, because you really can narrow down the choices to 2-3 “narrow necks” in Central America.
After reading Allen’s book, I started to accept his model as the most correct. It seemed like he was evaluating and improving upon all the previous models. However, I now think I’m going to give the benefit of the doubt to John L. Sorenson’s model, which I think is closer to being right.
In the link above, John E. Clark, PhD taught me a lot about the weaknesses of Allen’s model.
For example, if you believe Allen’s model is the most correct, then….
– You have to believe that the “East Sea” in The Book of Mormon is not next to the “narrow neck of land,” rather is is several hundred miles away.
– You have to believe that the Jaredites were the 1st ones to inhabit the Americas after the flood; conversely, you have to believe that by the time the Nephites got to the Americas that there were many different peoples already inhabiting the land. In other words, you believe the Jaredites were 1st, and the Nephites were much later in terms of migration chronology.
– You have to believe that the Nephite lands were much more populated than the Lamanite lands in the 4th Century AD (Based on population estimates that are feasible with size restrictions, given Allen’s map model.)
– You have to believe that the “City of Bountiful” was over 200 miles from the “narrow neck of land.”
– You have to believe that the designations “land north” and “land northward” are 2 different places.
– You have to believe that the “Land of Bountiful” is larger than the “Land of Zarahemla.”
– You have to believe that Nephite lands are 5 times larger than the Lamanite lands.
With Sorenson’s model:
– “Allen criticizes Sorenson’s model for its directional system but agrees with his identification of the narrow neck, the river Sidon, Zarahemla, and Cumorah.” (From the article linked above.)
– You have to believe that the designation “Olmec” does not necessarily mean “Jaredite.”
“At the moment there is no consensus or core of mutual understanding on who the Olmecs were or where they lived in Mesoamerica.” (From the article linked above.)
I disagree with Sorenson’s model of the Grijalva river being the “River Sidon.” Instead, I believe that the Usamacinta River is the “River Sidon.”
For those who believe the Book of Mormon took place in present day U.S.A., please read : Heartland as Hinterland: The Mesoamerican Core and North American Periphery of Book of Mormon Geography
Of course all of this has quite a bit of uncertainty, but these are the best explanations I have come across.